Sore shoulder will land McCullers on DL

March 16th, 2016

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers will open the season on the disabled list as the club takes a cautious approach with the gifted 22-year-old and his sore right shoulder.

"There's just not going to be enough time to build him up for the role in which we anticipate him doing," manager A.J. Hinch said Wednesday morning. "I told him that this morning so he'd be assured he's not trying to hit a deadline of Opening Day trying to impress anybody. We want him back healthy as soon as possible, but it's not going to be Opening Day."

McCullers has been sidelined since a March 6 throwing session. He reported soreness the following day, and when it didn't subside quickly, an MRI was done. That MRI was clean, but McCullers still has some soreness and doesn't know when he'll resume throwing.

Astros Spring Training information

"We're kind of taking it day by day," McCullers said. "I'm feeling a lot better. It's just up to the training staff and the team. They have my best interests in mind. We have the long-term goals in mind. I'm taking it day by day and going off what they say. It's just getting all the soreness out."

McCullers said he was frustrated by not being on a more specific schedule. Asked if his patience had been tested, he said, "My patience is already gone. It's been like three or four days and I have no more patience. They're talking me off the ledge.

"You want to pitch in the playoffs and down the stretch. At the same time, I want to pitch now. I want to go to New York [for the start of the regular season] and make that start. It's frustrating not being able to do that kind of stuff."

The Astros remain confident that the soreness isn't serious and that McCullers will pitch at some point during the regular season. But Hinch said McCullers is not ready now and that taking the regular season off the table allows him to recover at his own pace.

In doing so, Hinch will not be faced with a decision regarding his five-man rotation. It'll be: Dallas Keuchel, Colin McHugh, Doug Fister, Mike Fiers and Scott Feldman.

"We haven't gotten to the point where we're talking when I'm going to throw or how long it's going to be -- all that kind of stuff," McCullers said. "Time will tell. It's one of those frustrating things."

McCullers was one of the bright spots of the Astros' postseason run in 2015. McCullers made his Major League debut on May 18, and in 22 regular-season starts, he pitched 125 2/3 innings and had a 3.44 ERA. Including the postseason and Minor League assignments, he pitched 164 innings last season.

McCullers was sent back to the Minor Leagues for a stretch in the second half of the season as the Astros wanted to manage his workload. He was under no specific innings limit in 2016.

"It's not concerning. The MRI came back, everything's fine," McCullers said. "It's just one of those things where time has to heal. It's frustrating. You'd want to be a little more specific. You'd want this date picked out and that date picked out, that type of thing. It's not like that."