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McCullers to return for Sunday start vs. Angels

Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Injured starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (arm fatigue) is set to rejoin the Astros' rotation on Sunday night vs. the Angels at Minute Maid Park.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch made the announcement before Friday's series opener. After a brilliant start to 2017, leading to his first All-Star nod, the powerful right-hander has made just one start since July 30. McCullers missed all of August while on the disabled list with a back injury, and then after returning for one start in Seattle on Sept. 6, he was shut down again due to a separate issue of arm fatigue.

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HOUSTON -- Injured starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (arm fatigue) is set to rejoin the Astros' rotation on Sunday night vs. the Angels at Minute Maid Park.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch made the announcement before Friday's series opener. After a brilliant start to 2017, leading to his first All-Star nod, the powerful right-hander has made just one start since July 30. McCullers missed all of August while on the disabled list with a back injury, and then after returning for one start in Seattle on Sept. 6, he was shut down again due to a separate issue of arm fatigue.

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"Everybody is telling me he was strong, and that he bounced back from his bullpen [sessions]," Hinch said. "The next test is the game. We don't really have another option with the timeline that we have. We'll put him in there and see how it goes."

If healthy, the 23-year-old McCullers could be Houston's No. 3 or No. 4 starter behind Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel when the American League Division Series begins on Oct. 5. But with only nine games left in the regular season after Friday, that only leaves room for two starts for McCullers to make his case.

"We want to see him pitch a couple times, and he only has time for two spots," Hinch said. "It's important, very important, especially for him."

Hinch noted Thursday that McCullers had "simulated a couple of hitters" in his most recent session, which he said was more intensive than usual bullpen work.

McCullers is 7-3 with a 3.97 ERA in 111 innings pitched and 20 starts this season, including 122 strikeouts. In the first half of the season, he went 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 16 starts.

Ben DuBose is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston

Houston Astros, Lance McCullers Jr.