McCullers takes another positive step

McCullers takes another positive step

ARLINGTON -- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers took another step toward re-starting his Minor League rehab assignment by throwing off the bullpen mound at Globe Life Park on Tuesday. McCullers has been slowed with pain in his right shoulder since the spring.

McCullers threw three innings at Double-A Corpus Christi on April 11 before having to miss his next scheduled start last weekend. He had been penciled in to be the Astros' No. 3 starter, and the team brought him along cautiously this spring because of his large workload a year ago.

Manager A.J. Hinch said that Wednesday will be key to see how McCullers feels.

"[He's] not starting from scratch as much as he's throwing a couple of extra bullpens in between outings," Hinch said. "He's built up fine, he's physically feeling fine. Again, the key now that he's [throwing] off the mound again is how he's feeling tomorrow."

Evan Gattis, who has started three games at designated hitter this season since being activated from the disabled list following surgery for a sports hernia on Feb. 9, caught McCullers. Gattis won't get behind the plate during the Texas series, but Hinch would like him to factor in behind the plate at some point.

"He has to physically be able to handle back-to-back days," Hinch said. "You can't do anything less than your best, or it costs you 90 feet. So I have to be convinced he's fully prepared from the first inning on to have everything from an easy catching day where you never go to your knees to blocking 15 breaking balls for Collin McHugh."

• Catcher Max Stassi, who had surgery during the spring to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand, is progressing while at extended spring training in Florida. He's in the regular routine of his rehab and is expected to go on a Minor League rehab assignment after he's appeared in a few games in Florida.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.