I made the fifteen minute drive last night from my house over to Constellation Field in Sugar Land to watch a couple of close friends duke it out on the mound. By the end of the night, it was Dallas Keuchel who got the better of Lance McCullers Jr., but the Space Cowboys would eventually make a wild comeback for the win after both pitchers had left the mound. This was the fourth rehab start for McCullers and from the outside looking in, the results make you wonder if he truly is ready to get back on a big league mound.
This is where I waffle on my opinion of the outing and rehab stints in general, you just cannot have a massive expectation of great results because pitchers might go into them trying to work on one specific thing like they would in a spring training game and these are also guys, like in Lance's case, that have not pitched in games for weeks or months at a time. Results just simply do not come as quickly as we would like them to. Like anything in life, it takes time and more work to get back to peak performance and this is probably what we are looking at with Lance here.
Lance of course said all of the right things after the game last night and made it clear that he is ready to go.
It is easy to say all the right things of course and if I were him, I would not want to make another rehab start either. It's a little warm pitching outdoors in August. Give me the luxury of air conditioning at Minute Maid Park please. Lance said that he is working on pitch shaping and that very well is probably true, the question that I and a lot of people will have was the velocity last night. It was not horrible, it just was not typical Lance McCullers Jr. good. Everything basically sat from 90-92 mph all night long, more than enough to get guys out with. He might be holding back some while he is out there because last night was the longest he went into a game, tossing eighty six pitches across five innings, so I would completely understand not wanting to really ramp it up yet. The biggest takeaway for me is that I just walked away feeling like he could use one more rehab start. The command and velocity just was not good enough to where I think you need to rush him back out there just yet. We shall see what the Astros want to do from here.
The player feels he is ready and says the arm feels good. Whenever the club gets him back, if he performs like he normally does, this is another big boost to an already great team.