Summer 2024

Astros pitcher Lance McCullers nears return from injury, seeks to be 'a man of Christ'

With a 24-32 record, sitting in third place in the American League West and trailing by 6.5 games in the wild-card chase, the Houston Astros are in an unfamiliar position 56 games into this 2024 season. The franchise’s last losing season (aside from a COVID-shortened 2020) came in 2014; the stretch since has included four 100-win seasons, eight playoff appearances, seven consecutive ALCS appearances, and two World Series titles (2017, 2022).

The optimism that this year’s team will continue the success has dissipated, but all hope is not lost thanks to the impending return of starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr.

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McCullers last appeared in that 2022 World Series. As the 2023 season approached, the right-handed ace strained a muscle in his throwing arm, and attempts to rehab without surgery proved unsuccessful. McCullers underwent season-ending surgery in June 2023 to repair his flexor tendon and remove a bone spur.

A 2017 All-Star, McCullers had been a key piece in the Astros rotation since making his big-league debut with the team in 2015. He boasts a career 3.48 ERA, a 49-32 record, and 800 strikeouts, and he was playing some of his best baseball before the injury.

The 30-year-old from Tampa, Florida, is expected to return near the end of June. He can’t wait.

“I’m at a really good point in the rehab where I feel very confident in what we’re doing and how we’re progressing,” McCullers told Fan Nation in February, “and I’m looking forward to coming back.”

Earlier this month, McCullers sat down with Will Kunkel of FOX 26 in Houston at a Maven Coffee location he owns, and he was given the opportunity to talk about what matters most to him.

“I’m very confident in who I am as a person (and) in my faith in God and Jesus. My family, they stabilized me,” McCullers said when asked about negative comments directed his way on social media. “People will love you, people will hate you, even when you’re doing great people are going to hate you.”

He explained that he grew up knowing about God and having a “general faith,” as he describes it. But when he was asked at what point in his life his faith deepened, McCullers pointed to the surgery.

“I was so stressed, so anxiety-ridden, so on edge every day just about, like, ‘Is my arm gonna hurt? Is it not gonna hurt? Am I gonna be able to come back? Am I not gonna be able to come back?'” he told Kunkel. “For me, it was really just that first moment where I was really talking to God and I was praying to Jesus and I was just saying, ‘Listen, I really am turning it over.’ … I’ve always believed and I’ve always trusted. I’ve always known God will take care of me.”

McCullers said he sees a distinction between mentally assenting to the truth of who Christ is and actually following Him.

“I’ve always been faithful. … I’ve always tried to live by the commandments, but really kind of turning myself over and keeping the days of Holy Obligation and following His Word and really trying to be a man of Christ, I think is two different things. Trying to really walk that line and live my life through Christ versus just being a general believer.”

In the midst of the uncertainty surrounding his surgery, McCullers sought to surrender it all to Christ.

“I remember the night before I had surgery, I was praying and I really just said, ‘I am truly turning it over, and I’m gonna be OK. Even if I come back the best or if I never come back, I’ll be equally OK.'”

During his recovery, God gave McCullers a deeper desire to read the Bible, pursue a relationship with Him through prayer and church involvement, and teach his two young daughters about Christ. He said he’s been more active in inviting people to church, and he’s spoken more openly about his faith in the Astros clubhouse.

The team holds Bible studies during the week and chapel on Sundays, and McCullers is active in all of it. He’s even had discussions with other believers around MLB about starting a large group chat to spur one another on into maturity in faith.

“If me being outspoken or people at least saying, ‘He is a believer,’ if it just helps one other person come to God or come to their individual relationship with their faith,” McCullers said, “I think it’s worth it.”

>> Do you know Christ personally? Learn how you can commit your life to Him. <<

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