Astros right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. has been out for the entire 2023 season with injury issues and that will run into next season. McCullers has undergone flexor tendon surgery to remove a bone spur from his right forearm. He's out for the rest of the 2023 season and is expected to return sometime in 2024. 

The consolation for McCullers and the reigning World Series champions is that he did not need to undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career. As Brian McTaggart tweets, McCullers was aware it was a possibility, but the surgeon during the flexor-tendon procedure determined that it was not necessary. 

"My focus is just trying to get back out there and pitch and be healthy and pitch well," McCullers told reporters Saturday. "It's been a long road and it has been frustrating. | think anyone that knows me inside the clubhouse or personally knows how tough this process has been for me and currently is and I'm very frustrated. | know the fans want to see me out there pitching and providing my end of the bargain to the team."

McCullers missed the start of the 2022 season due to an injury he suffered in the 2021 playoffs. He came back to make eight starts in the regular season, pitching to a 2.27 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He made three playoff starts, too, including a dominant one in the ALDS, though he was shelled in his World Series start. 

The expectation was that McCullers would be fully healthy heading into spring training, but he suffered an injury early and never recovered. 

"After the injury happened in February, Lance worked his tail off to get back on the mound," general manager Dana Brown said in a statement Wednesday. "This guy is a warrior and did everything in his power to get back. But each time he built himself up to an increased pitch total off the mound, the pain would come back. It's unfortunate, but we look forward to him being back on the mound next season."

As far as the rest of this season, the Astros' rotation is anchored by Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier. Rookie Hunter Brown has been a really nice No. 3, though there have to be workload concerns at some point. Between the minors and a quick stint in the majors last season, including the playoffs, he only threw 130 innings. He's already to 75 1/3 innings this season. J.P. France and Brandon Bielak round out the rotation. 

The Astros enter play Saturday 3 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the AL West, tied with the Yankees for the last AL wild-card spot. Perhaps they'll be shopping at the trade deadline for rotation help, though there are a lot of teams in that boat and so far there don't appear to be many worthwhile starters available. 

McCullers, 29, is on the second year of a five-year, $85 million deal.