HOUSTON -- All-Star pitcher Lance McCullers said Saturday during the Astros' annual FanFest at Minute Maid Park that getting his changeup back to form will be one of his goals when Spring Training starts next month.
McCullers made the All-Star team after going 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 16 starts in the first half last year. He battled a back injury in the second half and made just six more starts in the regular season, going 0-2 with an 8.23 ERA. He threw the changeup 12.6 percent of the time in the first half, getting a 34.9 percent whiff rate, and only 6.6 percent of the time in the second half, getting a 12.5 percent whiff rate.
"The first half, my changeup was an awesome pitch for me," he said. "I was throwing it a lot. Some games, I would throw 20-25 of them. When I went on the DL for my back, I kind of lost my feel for it and never really got to get back to that. So I wanted to do what I did last year in the spring and not throw my curveball as much and throw my changeup a lot."
McCullers is also planning to work with Justin Verlander to get his four-seam fastball going again.
"I've have a couple of goals that we're working toward," McCullers said. "I'm just excited to get going again. It seems the season just ended yesterday, but when you have the opportunity to win the World Series, it's a short offseason. But it's for all the best reasons."
Spring in their step
Several Astros have already begun working out at the team's facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., one month before the start of Spring Training.
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American League MVP Award winner Jose Altuve, who's spent much of his offseason in South Florida, has been working out at the facility on weekdays. Former Cy Young Award winners Verlander and Dallas Keuchel have also started working out there, as well as outfielder Derek Fisher.
Pitchers and catchers will work out for the first time on Feb. 14, and the first full-squad workout will be Feb. 19. Verlander has been in West Palm Beach for the past week to try to get the lay of the land prior to his first spring with the Astros.
"I kind of jumped back into my workouts a little quicker than I normally would have -- not time-off wise, but right back into the strength training where you take a week or two to get your body readapted to working out again," Verlander said. "It was a slower process this time. I needed to make up time where I can, and jumped right back into it and kind of dealt with the soreness more than I probably would have normally, but I guess that was one of the areas where I changed my routine."
Marisnick ready to roll
With his thumb injury behind him, Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick hopes to pick up where he left off last year. The outfielder broke his thumb in mid-September sliding into a base and missed out on the postseason.
There was some discussion about Marisnick being activated for the World Series, but the Astros ultimately chose to keep him off the roster. Two weeks after the season ended, he started hitting again. Marisnick, 26, was in the midst of the best season of his career, hitting .243 with career highs in home runs (16) and RBIs (35) with an on-base percentage of .319 and a .496 slugging percentage.
"The first thing I did when I started hitting, I sat down with the charts and looked over the numbers and what were my strengths and weaknesses, and that's what I've been addressing the last two months now," he said.