Dallas Keuchel’s minor league career was pretty much complete in 2012 when he was called up to join the Houston Astros while playing for the Oklahoma City Redhawks of the Pacific Coast League.
The two-time All-Star pitcher and World Series champion has been reminded of those days as he starts his journey with the Atlanta Braves, and it’s helped him renew his energy and be reminded how things start for young players looking to make it to “the show.”
“You see a big leaguer come in and they’re all excited and that gets me excited, just because I’ve been on the other end of that plenty of times with rehab guys when I was in the minor leagues,” Keuchel said after completing his start at Monday’s Rome Braves game. “We’re all having fun here. It’s just nice to get back to a clubhouse with guys who have the same goal.”
Atlanta signed the seven-year MLB veteran to a one-year, $13 million deal late last week. The new contract ends his time as an unsigned free agent after he declined Houston’s offer to remain with the Astros after last season.
He threw seven scoreless innings for Rome, allowing just one hit and striking out nine while throwing 77 pitches.
“I think it was a lot more fun for me than it has been in a long time,” Keuchel said.”It was nice to get back out there and get some adrenaline pumping, some game competition and get as many pitches as I could.”
Keuchel said getting to warm up with the other pitchers and being in a clubhouse are some of his favorite things about playing baseball, and being around the players in Rome that are working to get to the Major Leagues reinforced his perspective.
“I think you really garner a nice understanding and an appreciation for what the guys are going through in the minor leagues and I think the great ones in the big leagues never forget that because, one, you don’t want to go back, and two, there’s always someone nipping at your heels to take your job. I appreciate that and I don’t want to be that guy that somebody takes their job,” Keuchel said.
“I feel like I’m good enough to last a while and I want to show some of these guys how I go about my business the right way, so that way maybe the next guy in line can do the same thing.
“I’m just happy to be along for the ride.”
While he has been keeping on a simulated pitching schedule during his extended offseason, Keuchel admitted it’s a different feeling to get used to being in a competitive situation again. He will get his next chance Saturday when he is set to pitch for Double-A Mississippi, according to several reports.
The left-handed Cy Young Award winner said there were talks with the Braves throughout the offseason and he’s excited to be a part of an organization he enjoyed while growing up in Oklahoma.
“My little league team was called the Tulsa Braves and I had a family friend who played for Atlanta,” Keuchel said. “I was a big fan of The Big Three — Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux. I mean, who wasn’t. Just to be a part of an organization that has such class and has such a rich history, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Kuechel was originally slated to pitch for Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday before rain washed out that chance. He then was set up for Rome on Monday since Gwinnett was off and on the eve of a six-game road trip.
If he gets the assignment for the Mississippi Braves on Saturday he’ll start in one of their two games scheduled against the Mobile BayBears.
It could also be his first chance to bat in a Braves uniform since the Southern League does not have a designated hitter rule.