McCullers' first full 'pen session a success

Right-hander working back from forearm strain; Gonzalez out of starting lineup

September 8th, 2018

BOSTON -- On Saturday afternoon, threw his first full bullpen session -- a 30-pitch effort -- as he works his way back from a right forearm strain that has had him on the disabled list since Aug. 5.

The Astros right-hander reported that he was able to throw fastballs, sinkers and changeups in the session, working them across all parts of the zone with success.

More importantly, McCullers reported that he felt great both physically and mentally after tossing in the Fenway Park bullpen.

"I couldn't have hoped for a better 'pen today," McCullers said. "It's another really good step forward. I still have a couple more boxes to check before we're going to start getting into live games, but this is a big step for me."

"It's important for Lance," manager AJ Hinch added. "This is one step of a five-, six-, seven-step process, before he gets back into a Major League game. If today went well, that's great."

Last Wednesday, McCullers threw a lighter 15-pitch session consisting of just fastballs. The plan moving forward has him adding curveballs into his flat-ground work, which will come on Sunday in Boston and Tuesday in Detroit.

McCullers' next bullpen session will occur on Wednesday in Detroit, and it will incorporate his entire arsenal, at which point he and the staff will evaluate what comes next for McCullers.

"Everything along the way is a mental checkbox, almost more than anything," said McCullers. "When you're going through injuries like this, especially with the timetable we had where we knew we couldn't slip up, it's more mental checkboxes that we're checking off and feeling good about moving forward."

Prior to the injury, McCullers was 10-6 with a 3.93 ERA in 22 starts this season, logging a career-high 126 innings. Eager for a prompt return, he is doing his best to be a solid teammate in the meantime.

"Being on the DL is for me more mentally draining than playing," said McCullers. "I feel kind of useless here, so I just try to be the best teammate I can, cheer for the guys, run up during the game and get drinks, food, whatever they need. I just really want to pitch again and hoping that's going to come here soon."

Worth noting

Prior to Friday night's game in Boston, Hinch told reporters that if had been able to get in a good batting-practice session, he could be ready to start for the club the next day.

On Saturday, however, the Astros manager explained that Gonzalez -- who had been day-to-day since Sept. 3 with right oblique discomfort -- had not yet been able to take swings on the field, which is why he was not in the team's starting lineup. He replaced in the ninth inning of Saturday's 5-3 win over the Red Sox as a pinch-runner, but he was called out at second base after grounded into a double play.

"He hasn't hit on the field yet," said Hinch. "I'm not going to put him in a game until he does. He could be available today, he could start tomorrow. But, he needs to take a full BP before I feel comfortable putting him on the field."

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