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Houston Astros’ pitcher Lance McCullers returns; Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers win spring training games

The Detroit Tigers' Matthew Boyd warms up during the first inning of a spring training game against the New York Yankees on Saturday in Tampa, Fla. (AP photo)

By The Associated Press
Lance McCullers struck out Paul Goldschmidt on curveball, then looked toward the Houston dugout.
That was enough on this day.
After being out of the game for more than a year, 16 pitches was plenty Sunday.
Sidelined since having Tommy John surgery in November 2018, McCullers started in a spring training game against St. Louis and faced three batters. He retired leadoff man Kolten Wong on a soft comebacker, gave up a double to Paul DeJong and fanned Goldschmidt with an 84 mph curve.
“Out of the 16 pitches I threw, really only maybe one or two that I didn’t execute the way I was hoping to pre-pitch,” McCullers said.
McCullers’ fastball reached 94 mph on the scoreboard radar gun. His signature pitch is the curve.
“It’s been the easiest to get the feel back for,” he said. “I’m still working on my four-seam, trying to get the four-seam back.”
McCullers’ healthy return to the starting rotation is a priority for the Astros, so they’re being cautious.
Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke provide a formidable duo at the top of the rotation. With the departure of free agents Gerrit Cole (New York Yankees) and Wade Miley (Cincinnati), McCullers figures to fill the third spot in the rotation.
McCullers’ previous outing against big league hitters was in relief on Oct. 17, 2018, in the AL Championship Series against Boston.
“He was smooth with his delivery,” manager Dusty Baker said following Houston’s 5-4 victory. “He wasn’t overthrowing, which I thought he might do from not being out there.”
Elsewhere around the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues:


Tigers 10, Yankees 4
Spencer Turnbull allowed just one hit over three scoreless innings, striking out three. Sandy Baez struck out the side in his inning of relief while walking one and giving up a base hit. Ryan Kreidler, taken in the fourth round of the 2019 draft, hit a grand slam.
David Hale, who was designated for assignment in October but opted to return to the Yankees, got the start and worked 1 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk while striking out one.

Brewers 5, Reds 4
Milwaukee starter Eric Lauer struck out five over 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Logan Morrison hit his second home run of the spring.
Wade Miley gave up three runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings for Cincinnati.