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When will Lance McCullers Jr. pitch this season?

McCullers is still being dogged by an injury he suffered during the 2021 postseason.

Division Series - White Sox v Astros - Game One Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

About six months ago, Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers departed Game 4 of the ALDS versus the White Sox after just four innings due to an injury. He was soon diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon in his right forearm.

Lance McCullers Jr. injury update

Fast-forward to April and, well, not much has changed for McCullers. He experienced a setback during his injury rehab during the offseason, hasn’t been cleared to throw and will open the regular season on the injured list. There is no timetable for his return. If there is any good news, it’s that McCullers said last month he doesn’t believe he will need surgery. He already missed the 2019 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery

McCullers has a 3.57 career ERA through six seasons and 119 starts. He was at his best in 2021 before this injury reared its ugly head. The 28-year-old righty finished with career-bests in ERA (3.16) and innings (162.1). Opponents had a meager expected slugging percentage of .315 against him.

Although McCullers was expected to slot in near or at the top of Houston’s starting staff to begin ‘22, the Astros are uniquely equipped to handle his absence. As he sits, Justin Verlander returns after pitching in just one game since the end of the 2019 season. Verlander is 39 years old, but when he last pitched a full season, he was the AL Cy Young Award winner. And then the Astros have a host of fairly young starters — Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier — who all had huge performances in the 2021 postseason. Jake Odorizzi is also around to provide another dependable, veteran presence.

So, maybe the Astros will not miss McCullers all that much while he’s out. They are still the favorites to win the American League West (-175), according to DraftKings Sportsbook. That stance will change if Verlander can’t recapture his previous form and/or those younger arms don’t progress. But for now, all we know is that the Astros’ pitching staff is deep and talented, at least on paper.

It will be even deeper and more talented once McCullers is ready to rejoin them. But with him not even cleared to throw at this moment, no one can say when McCullers will in fact be ready.