McCullers returning to Astros' 6-man rotation

Righty starting Tuesday as Houston begins stretch of 20 games without a day off

June 13th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Astros will welcome back right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. from the injured list for Tuesday’s game against the Rangers at Minute Maid Park, but he won’t be the only starter to pitch that day. Right-hander Jake Odorizzi is scheduled to follow McCullers, who will be on a pitch limit in his first start since May 22.

The return of McCullers at the start of a stretch in which the Astros will play 20 consecutive games without a day off will push the club to temporarily go to a six-man rotation. Zack Greinke will start Wednesday against the Rangers, followed by José Urquidy (Thursday), Luis Garcia (Friday), Framber Valdez (Saturday) and McCullers (Sunday) against the White Sox. Odorizzi’s next scheduled start is June 21 against the Orioles in Baltimore.

“We’re going to need everybody, because we’re starting that 20-in-a-row streak,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.

This will be the fourth outing for Odorizzi since he came off the injured list last month. He missed a month with a right forearm strain and has posted a 6.75 ERA in 21 1/3 innings in six starts with the Astros. He’s made only three relief appearances in his 10-year big league career.

“It’s basically still me getting reps and all that good stuff, and then slot back in,” Odorizzi said. “It’s not anything I’m really too worried about. That’s what I need right now, is to get reps. Each time I’m out there, I feel I’m closer and closer to regaining normalcy. Body-wise, it feels like the first month of the season as opposed to everyone else. I can do it for a day.”

McCullers threw 64 pitches in four innings in a Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Sugar Land on Thursday and proclaimed afterward he was ready to rejoin the Houston rotation. The righty, who had developed fluid in his bursa sac in his right shoulder, said his velocity was up to 96 mph.

“I felt really good,” McCullers said. “I was a little bit tentative in the first [inning], getting your feet wet again, but I’m really happy with the last 10 or so batters. I felt like my stuff got really crisp from the second inning on. … I hadn’t been in a game in a while, so I have some things to address in my bullpen and things like that, but overall, very happy.”