As Boston and Houston were preparing to get underway last night a bit of news dropped from a freelance reporter about one of the Astros key pitchers:
Source: #Astros RHP Lance McCullers is currently pitching through a torn UCL in his pitching elbow that is likely to require Tommy John Surgery at the end of the season. He is likely to miss the 2019 season.— Joe DeMayo (@PSLToFlushing) October 18, 2018
For context, this reporter was the first to report that Joe Smith was signing with the Astros.
This tweet immediately invoked images of Lance tapping on his forearm during a game at Dodgers stadium this season before getting pulled early and being sent back to Houston for evaluation. This was particularly concerning because symptoms of elbow injuries often appear in the forearm first. However, team doctors would surmise that he had received the injury while swinging the bat and not pitching, and the fan base would heave a sigh of relief.
Lance would go on the shelf for a couple of months at that point and have a couple of setbacks in his recovery, but all indications were that he would return in time for the postseason, probably out of the bullpen. When that proved true and it became evident that neither his command or velocity had dropped everything seemed to be alright. Indeed, he would go on to pitch 5 postseason innings, striking out 4.
But it seemed that that was not the whole story.
After last night’s exit from the playoffs, Lance would reveal he had been pitching through an injury but did not reveal the full extent. “I’ve definitely been pitching through some stuff and that’s all going to be figured out here in the next couple weeks,” McCullers said. “I was pitching through a lot of stuff, a lot of guys were playing through a lot of stuff. My only goal was to win the World Series, I had no other intention and no other goals. We’ll figure it out moving forward.”
He was pressed on whether he would require surgery and would only reply that it would all be figured out.
There was also this cryptic remark from Bregman:
Interesting quote from Alex Bregman postgame: "We were banged up a bit. Lance McCullers was pitching with -- I don’t know if I’m supposed to say what he’s pitching with, but the guy has some heart."— Ted Berg (@OGTedBerg) October 19, 2018
This all seems to be pointing to a much more serious injury than fans had been led to believe. Of course, this also brings up memories from earlier in the season when Houston would regularly obfuscate injuries to players. While it’s understandable that they want to assess an injury without the media running with wild speculations, this still appears to be a frustrating pattern with the team.
I’m sure we’ll be finding out within the next month or two exactly what will be happening with McCullers’ elbow. But if it’s TJS you can probably count him out for 2019, creating a big hole in the starting rotation. Though there are options at hand, it will be difficult to replace the dynamic young hurler on the staff.
No matter which way it goes, let’s hope for a recovery process that will allow Lance to regain his form sooner rather than later and return to a dominant rotation for Houston.