It took three days and two teams, but Dallas Keuchel finally made his first pitch in a Braves uniform.
The recently-signed 31-year-old threw in his first competitive game in almost eight months on Monday as he started for the Single-A Rome Braves at State Mutual Stadium in front of a crowd of 3,941. It’s the start of a path to becoming a part of the Atlanta Braves rotation.
Keuchel threw seven innings against the Charleston RiverDogs, who are the Single-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, and struck out nine while allowing just one hit.
The Cy Young winner and two-time All-Star, who recently signed a 1-year, $13 million deal with the Atlanta Braves, showed little signs of rust while throwing 77 pitches, 55 of which were strikes.
“I probably could’ve gone another inning, maybe nine,” Keuchel said. “But up and down seven times is pretty good. It felt great.”
While he was pleased with his performance against the RiverDogs, Keuchel said he still needs a lot of work to get to where he wants to be.
“I had been trying to keep a regular schedule of five days in California,” Keuchel said. “Game competition is a little different though, but I was able to stay in control tonight. It’s not necessarily a velocity game with me. It never has been. I don’t think I’m anywhere close mentally to where I want to be, but that takes a lot of time. I’m a perfectionist. I expect a lot of myself.”
Keuchel was originally set to make his Braves organizational debut on Saturday at Triple-A Gwinnett, but the game was washed out. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound World Series champion amassed a 76-63 record during his seven-year career with the Houston Astros and had an ERA of 3.66.
Charleston hit 10 groundouts against the lefty and two flyouts on Monday while he faced just two over the minimum. Keuchel praised South Atlantic League All-Star catcher Logan Brown for his performance behind home plate.
“Logan did a great job behind the plate,” Keuchel said. “For a pitcher, a good catcher at the backstop always makes your job a lot easier. He did a great job.”
Keuchel said he expects to pitch Saturday, but as to where or which team that will be with, he’s unsure.
“We’ll see where the teams are,” Keuchel said. “I don’t think we’ve gotten that far. We were just trying to get tonight’s game in. Thankfully we did. I don’t plan on any hiccups or anything that’s going to push me from making a Saturday start, wherever that is.”
Keuchel kept the RiverDogs scoreless until leaving the mound after seven innings, after which Tanner Lawson came in to finish up.
The Rome Braves were able to pull themselves out of an eight-game skid as they took the 1-0 win in the 10th inning on a Derian Cruz single to left field to score Henry Quintero for the game-winning run.
Brown, Jeremy Fernandez and Griffin Benson had a hit each for the Braves.
The Rome Braves continue their home series against the RiverDogs on Tuesday with a 7 p.m. game before wrapping up the series Wednesday at 1 p.m.