Keuchel: Return to Houston will be 'weird'

June 16th, 2021

CHICAGO -- When makes his first career start against Houston this Sunday, he’ll be facing the organization where the veteran southpaw pitched for the first seven years of his career.

Keuchel won an American League Cy Young Award with the Astros in 2015 and was an integral part of the 2017 World Series champions. But Keuchel, who pitched seven shutout innings in Tuesday night's 3-0 win over the Rays, isn’t really sure what to expect when he takes the mound at Minute Maid Park.

“I've thought about it a few times, but I don't know if it's really going to register with me until in the moment or afterward,” Keuchel told reporters Monday. “It's really a place I never thought I was going to leave.

“In all honesty, I have a lot of guys over there I have big-time admiration for, still, and I have a lot of contact with. And [Jeff] Luhnow's not there anymore, so I don't have anybody to dislike. We never got along, no bones about it. But I like everybody else over there, so it's going to be weird.”

Luhnow was the Astros’ general manager and president of baseball operations during Keuchel’s time there, but he was fired in January 2020 after Major League Baseball suspended him for the ’20 season for involvement in an electronic sign-stealing scandal. When asked to explain the disconnect with Luhnow, Keuchel said, “There was a couple of different things,” but he focused on the respect level for the players.

“We're out there winning ballgames essentially for him, because he ran the front office, and there was just no communication whatsoever from that front office to the players,” Keuchel said. “As I grew into my role and a couple other guys grew into their roles, it was just a complete lack of respect. And I didn't like him.”

Keuchel's focus now is on the White Sox, whom he joined via a three-year, $55.5 million deal prior to the 2020 season after one season with the Braves. Chicago is trying to make the same move the Astros accomplished: from rebuild to a World Series crown.

“It was always, 'Hey, we have each other's backs.' And that's why we won,” Keuchel said of his Astros days. “That's why they're still winning. They've got a lot of guys over there that are team-first guys, but also quality individuals, and that's something, looking back, if you go to other places, it's not always there.

“I'm sure there might be some good trash talking a little bit this weekend, but I know it's in good fun. And I still love those guys over there. I'm facing Lance McCullers [Jr.] on Sunday. He's like my son, so it's like a father-son reunion. I don't know what's going to happen, emotion-wise, on the mound. I don't really let anything affect me until I'm off the white lines.”

A sticky situation
Keuchel shared his take on Major League Baseball’s new guidance to deter the use of foreign substances, with his comments coming one day before Tuesday’s official announcement.

“It was kind of a gentleman’s rule for so long, but when you make it so obvious now, it’s kind of hard not to crack down,” Keuchel said. “This is coming from a guy who doesn’t use anything. I literally will rub up the ball with my sweat. So places I don’t sweat, I have trouble commanding the baseball.

“You can’t be out there toying with your glove or tossing the ball back and forth like some of these guys. You are on the island yourself, so everybody looks at you pitch in and pitch out, and you can’t make it so obvious. I don’t mind the rule just because I don’t have to adjust to anything I’m doing. But if you are good enough, you are good enough, and you are going to get stuff done.”

Third to first
• White Sox second baseman had successful season-ending surgery to repair the proximal tendon tear in his right hamstring. Madrigal will miss the remainder of the 2021 season but is expected to be without restrictions by the spring of '22.

is day to day with a sinus infection.

They said it
“Today's an important day because he's throwing off the mound. What you do always is whenever there's a next major test, you evaluate how he feels during it, afterward and tomorrow.” -- White Sox manager Tony La Russa on , who threw a bullpen session Tuesday to test his sore left hamstring.