HOUSTON -- A dejected Lance McCullers Jr., who was dropped from the Astros’ American League Championship Series roster on Friday because of a muscle strain in his forearm, vowed to stay involved with his teammates’ planning and preparation and be as supportive as he could during the postseason.
There’s still a chance McCullers could return to pitch in the World Series if the Astros advance, but considering he’s yet to start throwing a baseball after suffering a right flexor pronator muscle strain during Game 4 of the AL Division Series on Tuesday in Chicago, that’s unlikely.
“We're just going to have to see how I progress, see how I'm feeling over the next couple of days,” McCullers said Saturday. “We're fighting against time a little bit. I've got to be able to throw before I just pitch in a game. So today is a better day than yesterday was, and so hopefully those days keep adding up, and we can see where I'm at.”
McCullers, who took the ball in Game 4 of the ALDS on normal rest after the game was postponed a day because of rain, didn’t feel anything wrong with his arm until he faced Gavin Sheets in the fourth inning.
“I had a curveball gripped, and we ended up going with a slider,” McCullers said. “So I was moving it in my glove as I was in the wind-up, versus having it preset before I went. And so I just kind of got around the ball a little too much, and then threw the slider, and felt my forearm kind of -- I don't know how to explain it -- kind of go a little bit.”
McCullers finished the inning, giving up a double to Sheets and walking Leury García, before striking out César Hernández to end the fourth. That was the last of his 73 pitches.
“It took me probably the rest of that Sheets at-bat and the García at-bat to feel a little bit better to be able to get Hernández out,” McCullers said.
McCullers, who went 13-5 and was second in the AL with a 3.16 ERA in the regular season, said not being on the field in the ALCS is very difficult. He said he feels like he let his teammates down, but he has a lot of confidence in fellow starters Luis Garcia and José Urquidy.
“It's been a tough couple of days, but I can help lead this team in more ways than just pitching,” McCullers said. “Help the guys with the scouting reports, watching the game, trying to pick up on what I can. I can be there for them in more ways than one.”
Going over scouting reports and being supportive of his teammates in the dugout is the role McCullers will have to settle with for now, in the hopes that he can get back on the field later in October.
“Obviously that's what I normally do, and I'm probably more of a leader by action than words at times, but I can be there for these guys in any capacity, you know, so that's what I'm trying to do,” he said. “I'm trying to be a good teammate, and I'm trying to play a part. It's a very small part at this point, at least in this series, but I’ll be there for them and just cheering them on.”