Keuchel: WC shortcomings leave 'sour taste'
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dallas Keuchel won the American League Cy Young Award in 2015, was an integral part of the Astros' World Series championship run in ’17 and posted a 1.99 ERA over 11 starts in his White Sox debut last season as the South Siders broke a playoff drought dating back to ’08.
But the hunger for excellence, both at the team and individual level, continues to burn for the southpaw.
“It’s nice to come to the park day in and [day] out knowing we have a better shot to win,” Keuchel said. “And that’s one of the biggest things -- when the Astros started turning around, that was the thing that made us hungry was, 'Hey, we have a better shot at winning this series than losing.’ And that’s all you really want now.”
After working three innings in a simulated game on Saturday, Keuchel is scheduled to make his first Cactus League start on Thursday against the Royals. He’ll get three trips to the mound, which should have the 33-year-old ready to go for the second game of the regular season.
For the first time in a long while, Keuchel really feels like himself and is not trying to push himself in March so he’ll be there ready in September and October. Keuchel allowed three earned runs over 3 1/3 innings in a Game 2 loss in the AL Wild Card Series last year, and struggles over his last two playoff starts remain a driving force for him entering 2021.
“Not getting it done last year in Game 2 has really left a sour taste in my mouth, and that’s something that I’m out to prove this year,” Keuchel said. “I’m not goal-oriented. I don’t have goals for myself.
“I just want to be healthy and out there. If I had something to look forward to it would be getting back on the wagon and asserting myself in the playoffs, which I had done the first five, six starts of my career.”
Foster amped to return
Matt Foster was excited to return to the mound Saturday and pitch in front of fans at Camelback Ranch after briefly being sidelined by a right groin strain.
“Nothing major,” Foster said. “Last year, I kind of dealt with a slight little groin issue and it kind of popped up again this year, but [I'm] on the other side. Kind of set me back a couple of days. But I feel great now, getting it worked on every day and getting ready to go again.”
Foster allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in one-third of an inning against the Angels. But he’s looking forward to getting back out there and getting back to a pitching style that helped him post a 6-1 record and a 2.20 ERA over 23 games and 28 2/3 innings last season.
“I was definitely overthinking, trying to, working on the slider,” Foster said. “I like it. It has the right shapes and good velo and I was getting a little ahead of myself, trying to throw it too much and forgetting, 'I’m a fastball-changeup guy and the slider complements that' -- instead of trying to pound sliders in and just the beginning, getting away from commanding a fastball pretty well and spotting up a changeup. Trying to get ahead of myself with the slider.”
Third to first
• Manager Tony La Russa believes Yasmani Grandal has time left in Spring Training to work through his right knee issue and be the team's Opening Day catcher. Grandal sustained the injury when he stepped wrong during running drills on Feb. 24.
“This amount of games, if he can take the starts planned for him, not only as a hitter, as a DH, but catching, with his experience, he’ll be fine,” La Russa said. “The thing we have to look at is Mother Nature, will she cooperate and keep him healthy? In two weeks, he can really get sharp.”
Grandal played in Friday’s "B" game against the Dodgers, and finished 0-for-2 with a walk in his first game against the Angels on Saturday.
“It’s a nice looking lineup when he plays,” La Russa said. “It makes us deeper.”
• Lance Lynn struck out four over 3 1/3 scoreless innings during a 1-0 victory over Oakland on Sunday, where the A’s had just two hits while White Sox pitchers recorded 15 strikeouts. Lynn allowed one of the hits and also walked three.
“Walks are going to happen, that’s part of it, but physically [I] feel good,” Lynn said. “Pitch count is starting to get there. I’d like to be a little more efficient and that’s going to come with less walks.”
• After going 0-for-2 in his Cactus League debut on Monday, Nick Madrigal has not played in a game since. The second baseman had left shoulder surgery over the offseason and has been dealing with residual soreness after that first appearance.
“My understanding is he's going to work out again today, tomorrow. I'm thinking mid-week, maybe as early as Tuesday, as late as Thursday, he can get back in there,” La Russa said. “It's easier to put him in the lineup than to watch him go crazy not playing. So just assume [I'll] play him.”
He said it
“We are one big happy family down there so it’s not necessarily taking somebody under my wing. But everybody is open to criticism, advice and things we see that will help them, because when we are all going good, that’s good for everybody.” -- Right-handed reliever Evan Marshall, who has 10 strikeouts over 4 2/3 hitless Cactus League innings, on being a bullpen leader.