McCullers encouraged by latest rehab game

Right-hander, out with shoulder soreness, could move up to Double-A or Triple-A

McCullers encouraged by latest rehab game

SEATTLE -- After throwing 45 pitches in three innings in a Minor League game on Wednesday morning in Kissimmee, Fla., Astros pitcher Lance McCullers could be headed to Triple-A Fresno or Double-A Corpus Christi for his next start if he responds well on Thursday.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch exchanged text messages with the pitcher and said McCullers was encouraged by his outing. Hinch said the right-hander, who's been out since halfway through Spring Training because of shoulder soreness, was throwing between 91-96 mph.

"He felt really good," Hinch said. "Again, we have to wait until tomorrow to see how he responds to that type of exertion and that type of volume. As of the last pitch of the outing, he was very encouraged with his command and the ball coming out of his hands. We're cautiously optimistic that it's the first step in getting him back into a rehab assignment and ultimately back here."

McCullers, 22, went 6-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 starts with the Astros last year after being called up from Corpus Christi. The Astros eased him into a throwing program in Spring Training because of the workload he had in 2015, and he came down with shoulder soreness before he could pitch in a game.

He made a rehab start April 11 for Corpus Christi and threw three innings, but in the following days experienced more discomfort in his shoulder. The Astros could use him considering the struggles they've had in the rotation so far this year.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009, and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.