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Early debut for Fiers after McCullers falters

ARLINGTON -- Mike Fiers' debut with the Astros came a day earlier than manager A.J. Hinch had planned. Fiers, acquired in a trade with the Brewers last week, was pressed into action in the Astros' 12-9 loss to the Rangers on Monday night after starting pitcher Lance McCullers didn't make it out of the first inning.

Fiers was tagged for six runs on seven hits in five innings, but he saved an undermanned bullpen and possibly kept the Astros from having a position player pitch, and is now scheduled to make his first start for Houston on Sunday in Oakland.

"I was happy that Fiers came in and was able to get through the majority of that game by saving some of our bullpen pieces to live to start another day," Hinch said.

McCullers, meanwhile, faced nine hitters and allowed seven hits, one walk and six runs while recording one out in the shortest outing of his young career. After the game the Astros said they were going to send McCullers to the Minor Leagues, where he won't pitch in games. Dan Straily will be called up from Triple-A Fresno to start Tuesday's game against the Rangers on three days' rest.

"[McCullers] struggled with his command, he didn't have a feel for any pitch, and he tried to push his way through it and threw a little bit harder, with a little bit more intensity," Hinch said. "He was spraying the ball pretty much from pitch No. 1. Just wasn't his night. He had a bad night at work. He'll recover from it and be fine over the long haul."

McCullers walked Delino DeShields to start the game before giving up four consecutive hits, including a two-run triple to Adrian Beltre, who hit for the cycle. Shin-Soo Choo tagged him for a two-run homer later in the inning.

"It's pretty frustrating," McCullers said. "I was watching the film, and I had two strikes on two different batters, and they fouled off curve balls that hit the dirt before they hit their bat. I wanted to be out there long for the guys. I made Mike really work tonight. He wasn't expecting to pitch tonight. That's a little disappointing. I'm not going to roll over. I'm going to work hard, and I'll be back out there competing for the guys."

The move to send McCullers to either Fresno or Double-A Corpus Christi is being made in the Astros' ongoing effort to preserve the 21-year-old's career-high workload.

"I understand the move," he said. "These guys are going to continue winning, and hopefully I'll be able to come back and help them, whenever that time is."

Fiers give up five runs in the third inning -- his first inning of work -- before holding the Rangers to one run over the next four.

"[Hinch] told me before the game if they needed me, they might put me in there because they're really short, and I told them I was fine," Fiers said. "There's no excuse for [my] first inning, when I came in and gave up five, so I need to be better. If I was, we probably could have won that game."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Houston Astros, Lance McCullers