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It’s Hunter Brown’s time to shine!

Without Lance McCullers Jr. to begin the season, the rookie has a golden opportunity to impress everybody again.

Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

A few days ago, the Astros got some bad news: Lance McCullers Jr. will miss Opening Day as he’ll be shut down for a few weeks with an elbow injury. With this opening in the rotation, the Astros are blessed to have promising rookie Hunter Brown stepping up as McCullers’ momentary replacement.

This undeniably tests Houston’s pitching depth since the first day of the season, proving you can never have enough pitching going into a 162-game regular campaign.

Fortunately, Brown should be more than ready, fresh to fill Lance’s void, assuming Dusty Baker decides so. The good side of all of this is that Baker and company will have an entire month to figure this out in Spring Training.

But if Brown takes charge, you can trust him. Still just 24 years old, he had an outstanding 2022 season as Brown starred in Triple-A before making his MLB debut – hurling 106 innings and posting a 2.55 ERA with a 9-4 record and 134 strikeouts.

He shone in the Majors thereafter. With the Astros, he went 2-0 with an 0.89 ERA over 20 1/3 innings of work across seven games (two starts). Then, he logged three scoreless appearances in the postseason to help the Astros bring home the World Series trophy.

That impressive showing left Brown as one of the Astros’ top arms, especially for the long run.

At least for now, Brown seems to be the right man to occupy that spot for as long as it takes McCullers Jr. to be healthy again. Assuming he’ll be the chosen one and the fact that he’d serve as the fifth starter, Brown will likely face the Detroit Tigers at Minute Maid Park on Monday, April 3.

Brown already knows what it’s like to pitch against the Tigers. Back on September 13, he made his second career start in the Majors. He won that game at Comerica Park facing Detroit, threw six innings of five-hit, two-run ball with two bases on balls and six strikeouts.

This could be a great opportunity to see what Brown brings into 2023 after having a sweet MLB debut last year. The best that could happen to the Astros is that Brown pitches so well that it makes it hard for Baker to send him to Triple-A once Lance is set to come back. But we’ll see.