Lance McCullers is set to come back from injury soon and when he does the Houston Astros will slide him to the bullpen. Let’s take a look at why he should stay there.
Houston Astros pitcher Lance McCullers injured his throwing elbow earlier this month. Elbow injuries with pitchers are always precarious as further damage can ultimately lead to Tommy John surgery. While Tommy John surgery isn’t the death sentence it used to be, it’s still a very long recovery.
The Astros don’t have an exact timetable for McCullers to return to but, it is expected for him to return before the playoffs. When he returns, the Astros won’t have the time get him stretched back out to be a starter so, they’ll bring him back in a bullpen role.
This isn’t anything new as he slid to the bullpen for the Houston Astros during last year’s playoffs. The one game he came out of the pen he proved extremely clutch. He can in the sixth inning of a very pivotal game six against the Yankees. He pitched four innings and collected six strikeouts while surrendering only one hit and zero runs.
McCullers has been a really solid starting pitcher during his career. He has shown a lot of promise and had a lot of success. McCullers has a claim to the best curveball in baseball to pair with an excellent fastball that he’s turned into a sinker the past two years.
However, if he continues on the trend he started last year in the bullpen, the Houston Astros should never bring him back out of the pen. Keeping McCullers in the pen will be better for him. Keeping him in the pen will also be better for the Astros.
McCullers pitches would become even more deadly out of the bullpen. Other pitchers, like Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock, that the Houston Astros have moved to the pen have seen around a two mph increase across pitches. If that were to hold true for McCullers, he’d average around 97-98 on his fastball/sinker and potentially an increase on his incredible curveball as well.
McCullers also has a very lengthy injury history. A move to the pen could potentially mitigate the risk of him getting injured. He would put fewer miles on his arm and could use them more effectively.
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Moving McCullers to the pen would also be a boon to the team. Adding him would strengthen this pen in the short and long term. He is extremely capable with his pitches and as I mentioned earlier, it would make them even more effective. He would provide another arm that can eat a few innings and that could also finish games if need be.
Moving him permanently to the pen would also open up another spot in the rotation. Now, this only works if the Astros bring back either Dallas Keuchel or Charlie Morton, or both. This organization has plenty of capable arms coming up the ranks in the minor leagues, a lot of which don’t have much, if anything, left to prove in the minors.
So, this would allow the team to move guys up and younger and more controllable in the majors. This would just be a win-win across the board in my eyes. Sure, it would be an adjustment for McCullers but, it’s one that could see him turn into an elite impact arm out of the pen.
McCullers, with his stuff, demeanor, and swagger, could become one of the best relievers in the entire league. That’s the kind of potential this move has. I, for one, would love to see this come to fruition.