McCullers heads to Florida to continue rehab

McCullers heads to Florida to continue rehab

HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers responded favorably to a brief but intense bullpen session on Sunday at Minute Maid Park and will head to the team's facility in Kissimmee, Fla., to continue his rehab, manager A.J. Hinch said.

McCullers, who has yet to appear in a game this season because of right shoulder soreness, is making enough progress the team wants him to get into more baseball activity while the Astros are on the road this week. McCullers could get into games in extended spring training at some point this week.

"It's good news that he felt really good today," Hinch said. "He's trending in the right direction, and now we feel like we've gotten past the hurdle of the recovery. Now he needs to go get into baseball activity. We got extended spring training [in progress], and at some point we can reinject him into that. Not just yet."

Rasmus thriving by being patient at plate

The strides made at the plate this season by Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus have been impressive, and Hinch said the consistency of his strike-zone judgment is the key. Rasmus entered Sunday hitting .302 with six homers, 16 RBIs and a .449 on-base percentage that ranked second in the American League.

"His command of his body in the batter's box, controlling the strike zone, swinging at strikes, doing damage on damage pitches, he's been remarkably consistent on damage pitches, and that's very impressive," Hinch said.

Rasmus has been in the lineup more consistently this year, too, which certainly helps as well. On Sunday, he got his 18th start in the Astros' first 19 games.

"He's going to need a day off here and there, when it's a difficult matchup or tough travel or however many days in a row. All these guys need days off, mentally and physically," Hinch said. "He's under such control of his movements -- of his load, of where his body is, of where he's positioned in the batter's box. I don't think he's been in this type of position his entire career so consistently. It's odd to say that about a guy who's been in this league as long as he has been."

Hinch still intends to catch Gattis

Hinch maintains he's looking for the right spot to get Evan Gattis back behind the plate for the first time this season. Gattis, who missed all of Spring Training following hernia surgery, has been doing catching drills for weeks, and Hinch wants to get him into a game that's not close to get him reacquainted with the position.

On three different occasions this year, Hinch was ready to put Gattis into action behind the plate, but circumstances in the game changed his mind. Hinch said he wants Gattis to have a "soft landing."

"He may not need the soft landing," Hinch said. "I just want his first couple of innings to be something less than Ken Giles [pitching] with the bases loaded and a 3-2 slider in the dirt. Those are real time situations that could come up, and I'm trying to gently ease him back into it. Pretty soon, I'm just going to force him in there."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.