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Keuchel feels 'ahead of schedule' after debut

@Russ_Dorsey1
March 2, 2020

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dallas Keuchel's introduction to baseball in 2020 has been dramatically different than what the left-hander experienced last season. Keuchel was a member of the slow-moving free-agent market of 2019, missing most of the first half before signing with the Braves in June.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dallas Keuchel's introduction to baseball in 2020 has been dramatically different than what the left-hander experienced last season. Keuchel was a member of the slow-moving free-agent market of 2019, missing most of the first half before signing with the Braves in June.

But with those days behind him and knowing he’ll be a member of the White Sox for the foreseeable future after signing a three-year deal last December, he's already reaping the benefits of a fresh start.

“I’ve been saying all spring, the first couple of weeks, that I felt ahead of schedule physically and mentally where I’m at,” Keuchel said. “That’s just a huge sign for me, especially the last couple of years ... not having Spring Training last year and getting my body healthy from the previous two seasons with missing time through various injuries.

"But all in all, I feel ahead of schedule. I wasn’t really aiming at a certain inning or certain pitch. It was kind of, go out there and see how I feel.”

Keuchel made his Cactus League debut on Monday and looked like his signature self in Chicago's 3-1 loss to the Padres. The 32-year-old southpaw tossed 50 pitches in his four-inning performance, allowing one run on five hits, striking out one.

Nine of the 12 outs Keuchel recorded in the game came via ground balls, a Keuchel trait that will serve him well at hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field when the regular season begins on March 26.

“I was just happy to see the ball on the ground,” Keuchel said. “I was trying to get early contact, a few at-bats were a lot longer than I would have liked. But the first couple starts, it's really working on stuff, I gave up a few hits to lefties, but at the same time, I'm working on off-speed command, trying to get better at that. Last year, I didn't really have a breaking ball to lefties, but I know I can attack inside with my two-seam and changeup.

“When the time comes, you know, it'll be there, buddy. These stats don't count. And that's a nice feeling, but at the same time, competition always brings out the best in you. And you want to do it as well as you possibly can. But you still got to work on certain things, and breaking ball command was one of them."

The White Sox are hoping Keuchel and fellow veteran lefty Gio González not only bring a stable veteran presence to the rotation and eat innings, but also be a sounding board for one of the youngest starting rotations in baseball.

Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López, Michael Kopech and Carlos Ródon are all under the age of 27, and each should benefit from the two veteran left-handers -- whose lockers are right next to each other in the clubhouse.

“We have such great talent here, it’s just helping them kind of expose that talent. Letting them pitch at ease without thinking the world is on their shoulders,” González said. "Guys like myself and Keuchel are helping in other ways and not giving them that full amount of pressure. It’s helping them go out and focus on the task at hand.

“I don’t think anybody throws less than 95 [mph] here and the guys who do -- like Keuchel -- are pitchers. [Keuchel] has the old-school mentality that I grew up on. That I loved. That I watched. Hit his spots. Didn’t miss. He’s a perfectionist, and you admire that. I never had a left-handed pitcher that I could relate to in certain things in my career and this is a perfect example. I’m fortunate to have a guy like him in my corner.”

Russell Dorsey is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @Russ_Dorsey1.