Rome a re­fresher for Keuchel

The seven-year MLB vet­eran is ex­pected to start for Dou­ble-A Mis­sis­sippi on Satur­day.

The Standard Journal - - SPORTS - By Jeremy Ste­wart JSte­[email protected]

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 was 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 dur­ing the June 10 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 sev­enyear MLB vet­eran to a oneyear, $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 June 8 be­fore rain washed out that chance. He then was set up for Rome on June 10 since Gwin­nett was off and on the eve of a six-game road trip.

He was wait­ing last week for word on whether he would get an as­sign­ment for the Mis­sis­sippi Braves on June 15, and was ex­pected to start in one of their two games sched­uled against the Mo­bile BayBears as press time was com­ing around.

It could also be his first chance to bat in a Braves uni­form since the South­ern League does not have a des­ig­nated hit­ter rule.

Jeremy Ste­wart

Braves pitcher Dal­las Keuchel gets the ball back from the catcher af­ter a pitch dur­ing the third in­ning of Mon­day’s Rome Braves game at State Mu­tual Sta­dium.

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