Dallas Keuchel is technically starting his career with the Atlanta Braves with a demotion, but the 31-year-old pitcher thinks he’ll be making a start in the majors again soon enough.
With his first scheduled start in the Braves’ minor league system rained out Saturday at Triple-A Gwinnett, Keuchel is tentatively scheduled to start for the Single-A Rome Braves on Monday night at State Mutual Stadium.
Gwinnett is off Monday and begins a six-game road trip on Tuesday. Rome begins a three-game homestand against the Charleston RiverDogs on Monday. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.
Keuchel ended an extended free-agent period on Friday by signing a one-year deal with the Braves that pays him $13 million. The two-time All-Star went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA in 34 starts last season for Houston and is expected to help buoy Atlanta’s starting rotation.
The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner is expected to throw 75 to 90 pitches with Rome and said he doesn’t expect to need much time tuning up in the minors before he joins the Major League team.
During a conference call Friday, Keuchel said he has been pitching seven innings in simulated games in Southern California and he’s eager to start pitching for the Braves.
“I’m built up to go 5 or 6 innings at least,” he said. “There’s no concrete timetable, but I would expect, knowing how I operate, it wouldn’t be long at all.”
The two-time All-Star didn’t voice any regrets about how things turned out. He is part of a Braves team that won the NL East last year and is in the thick of the division race this season.
“They were one of the teams I had pinpointed going into free agency, with how youthful and exciting their team could be,” Keuchel said. “I’ve always been an advocate of this formula — a great mixture of veteran leadership and young talent. It could become special. Hopefully I can bring a little something extra.”
Atlanta’s all 28-and-under rotation thus far has been led by 21-year-old rookie right-hander Mike Soroka, who improved to 7-1 with a 1.38 ERA by beating the Miami Marlins on Friday night.
Afterward, Soroka grinned when asked about the acquisition of Keuchel.
“It’s a little surreal,” Soroka said. “It’s exciting when you see a team where we’ve got so much talent and experience. To add a guy like him hopefully gives us confidence to make a run for it.”
Keuchel is 76-63 with a 3.66 ERA in seven major league seasons, all with the Astros.
“He makes everybody better,” Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “The innings, the competitiveness, the experience, the winning — there are not a lot of opportunities to get guys like this. We’re real excited.”
No further minor league plans have been officially announced for Keuchel. Rome goes on the road Thursday for four games at Augusta before the three-day South Atlantic League All-Star break.