'Pain free' McCullers Jr. begins throwing

March 14th, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros right-hander provided an update Tuesday on his return from a strained right forearm muscle, saying he’s pain free and able to lift weights and throw a baseball. McCullers began throwing Saturday and will play catch every other day for a while.

McCullers injured his arm after throwing in the bullpen at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Feb. 14, and he began experiencing pain the following day. An MRI performed a week later showed no structural damage, and McCullers said Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed his Tommy John surgery, has since confirmed the diagnosis of a strained forearm muscle.

“Very low grade,” McCullers said. “They were hesitant to even call it a strain. It wasn’t even a Grade 1 or anything like that. I threw that bullpen and basically maybe too much intensity here at camp. Sometimes guys deal with stuff. No different than hamstrings or stuff like that for a position player. Just maybe did a little bit too much, too soon. I wasn’t ready for it, I guess. I thought I was, but I guess I wasn’t.”

McCullers said he hopes to sit down in the next week or so with head athletic trainer Jeremiah Randall and formulate a plan to ramp up his recovery, which will include a progression to bullpen sessions, throwing live batting practice and eventually getting into games. He will start the season on the injured list for the second year in a row.

“I’ll get a couple of catch games under me and get to where we feel comfortable going out to the field, throwing every day and make a plan from there,” McCullers said.

McCullers missed the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, then he sat out the first four months of last season with a right flexor pronator strain. He returned to make eight starts at the end of the regular season, going 4-2 with a 2.27 ERA, and made three starts in the postseason, including a Game 3 World Series start in which he gave up five homers at Philadelphia.

The Astros are expected to open the season with a five-man rotation of Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Hunter Brown, their top pitching prospect.