The Houston Astros are counting on Lance McCullers Jr. to help replace Justin Verlander in 2023. However, McCullers Jr. revealed a recent MRI showed that he suffered a “small muscle strain,” per Chandler Rome. McCullers Jr. added that “Opening day is out of the question.”

Astros' manager Dusty Baker previously hinted at a potential McCullers Jr. injury but refused to go into detail. McCullers Jr. expressed his frustration following his injury diagnosis, per Brian McTaggart.

“I’ve been a little bit upset,” McCullers said. “I was really looking forward to a great start to the camp and great start to the season. Any time this happens, it’s very frustrating for me and the team and the fanbase.”

Lance McCullers Jr. is one of the better pitchers in the game when healthy. But avoiding injury has been a difficult task for the Astros' right-hander. He's pitched in more than 11 games just once since 2018. McCullers Jr. has been successful during that time span, but Houston hasn't received much volume from him.

The Astros still feature one of MLB's best rotations amid Justin Verlander's departure and Lance McCullers Jr.'s injury. Framber Valdez will lead the charge with Luis Garcia, Christian Javier, and Jose Urquidy behind him. Their depth isn't as strong as it once was, but they could add veteran help or dip into the minor leagues to replace McCullers Jr. until he returns.

There is no set timetable for Lance McCullers Jr. at the moment. The Astros will likely release an official timeline soon. We will provide updates as they are made available.