<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Astros?src=hash">#Astros</a> manager A.J. Hinch announced Lance McCullers, Jr. will start Monday at <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MMP?src=hash">#MMP</a> against the A’s.</p>— #VoteAstros (@astros) <a href="https://twitter.com/astros/status/599319953989193728">May 15, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Holy smokes. Astros skipper A.J. Hinch just dropped a cluster bomb by announcing that Lance McCullers jr. will get the nod to start against the Oakland A's on Monday, May 18.
Yes, junior. I'm not sure it would be any more shocking if it were senior. This is the same 21-year-old top prospect who totaled under 30 innings in AA before being promoted to AAA just a few days ago, and who had yet to throw a single inning there.
Yes, this is a bombshell. Talk about coming out of left field. Are these the Houston Astros? The methodical, smart, tight-to-the-vest number wizards who leave nothing to chance, who analyze every angle of every possible move? MCullers performance at AA can't be denied, with gaudy numbers like a 13.34 K/9, a walk rate and a 2.21 FIP. But this is still a move no one could have seen coming. Calling up young pitchers before they've tasted AAA (or their 22nd birthday) is a decidedly old-school move. Or so it seems.
If they think he's ready mentally, though, perhaps this isn't so crazy. Perhaps they don't believe in the old "you'll damage him if he comes up too soon and gets knocked around!" line of thinking. We have to also remember that Oberholtzer's blister issue is apparently not that serious, so this could be just a one or two start gig. Maybe he goes down after that, hoping to have further charged up the competitive spirit of a fiery mound bulldog. Maybe they keep him in the bullpen; his elite heater and devastating-when-on breaking ball would certainly play in relief as things stand now.
What's more notable about it is simply the philosophical shift. Does this happen two years ago? Last year? Maybe they believe McCullers to be the best option in terms of trying to win, where in years past we'd see Samuel Deduno or Jake Buchanan out there. If so, it's another clear sign that the gears have indeed shifted, and should give hope that Carlos Correa will indeed soon follow, and who knows what manner of move or moves might at the trade deadline as well. Just today Jon Heyman speculated about a couple of starters who the Astros might be interested in dealing for; that certainly seems more likely given the aggressive nature of this move.
There are a ton of questions surrounding this move, and only time will tell how things all shake out. What's clear is that the organization is quite different than it was even 12 months ago, and that is an encouraging thought. While we don't know if McCullers will be here long, or in what role, what we do know is that Monday will be must-see Astros baseball, and the more often that can be said, the better.