White Sox fans are going to love Dallas Keuchel for a number of reasons.
Let’s start with No. 56.
If Keuchel had a Mount Rushmore of his all-time favorite pitchers, he’d probably put White Sox legend Mark Buehrle up there front and center. Like a Buehrle clone, Keuchel is a trademark soft-tossing left-hander with a World Series ring and a trophy case filled with Gold Glove Awards.
Keuchel’s admiration for Buehrle is pure gold.
“He’s somebody who at the end of my career, hopefully I’m still compared to him years from now," Keuchel said about Buehrle in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. "It’s an honor."
No one can ever replace Buehrle. Keuchel is just hoping he can have a White Sox career that comes close to it.
“(Buehrle) is synonomous with the White Sox. Obviously, he’s got a perfect game and a no-hitter, multiple Gold Gloves, a World Series champion. That’s stuff that gives me motivation," Keuchel said. "That gives me chills thinking about how big of a career he had. I hope he comes around Chicago a few times because I would love to talk to him just about anything and everything.”
This has to happen, right?
How Keuchel came to the White Sox started early in the offseason. In fact, as early as legally possible. Rick Hahn sent a text to Keuchel’s agent, Scott Boras, the morning after the World Series. The White Sox were the first team to reach out.
But what Hahn didn’t know at the time was that Keuchel had already scouted the White Sox. He was all-in dating back to August. That’s when the White Sox came to town to face Keuchel’s Braves. The former Cy Young Award winner was impressed, to say the least.
“I saw a three game set, and it really opened my eyes to the progress that they had made,” Keuchel said. “I saw a big leap, and not just the Abreu’s of the world. Giolito made a big step last year, Moncada, Anderson. Jimenez, I got to see that power potential, thankfully not against me.”
Keuchel faced the White Sox in one of those three games. Jimenez got three singles against him, Anderson went 2-for-5 and Moncada had an RBI single. Keuchel gave up two runs on nine hits in six innings en route to a win.
Keuchel decided to jump at the chance to play for the White Sox because he believes they’re on the verge of something big.
“Honestly, the only next step is just getting to the playoffs and getting a taste of that,” he said. “Ultimately, when the offseason started, that’s really what drove me. (The White Sox) were one team that initially peaked my interest. When I heard word there was early interest, it really excited me.”
Going through the rebuild, the White Sox were on the receiving end of way too many losses. After a while, that much losing can damage your baseball soul.
Keuchel knows from experience.
He lived it during the Houston Astros rebuild when they lost over 105 games for three consecutive seasons. He was aboard for the final two 100-loss drubbings before they finally broke through and eventually won the World Series in 2017.
“Once the doors started to get kicked down and opened for the Astros when I was establishing myself and we had a chance to win every night, that is really the only feeling I’ve wanted to have since,” Keuchel said. “For (the White Sox) to be in this position, and add a couple guys in free agency, really says we’re trying to win now, and that’s the feeling that I want to push towards these guys. Once you get that winning feeling, it’s addicting.”
Keuchel says communication is really important to winning, even if that means communicating to the general manager how much he wants to win — and expects to.
“I told (Rick Hahn), four out of the last five years I’ve made the playoffs. To me, there’s no better feeling,” Keuchel said of his recent conversation with the GM. “I said, ‘I don’t plan on stopping my string of appearances in the playoffs.’ I just wanted to reiterate, that’s where I’m coming from. That’s what I expect.”
Those are certainly encouraging words to hear considering the White Sox haven’t made the playoffs since 2008. But most everyone in baseball believes that the times they are a changin’ on the South Side. The days of the painful rebuild and a half-empty ballpark appear to be in the past.
Keuchel is hoping for more wins and more fans coming out to Guaranteed Rate Field.
“The thing that I was saying in Houston for a number of years was, if I was a fan, I wouldn’t like the product either if it was subpar,” he said. “If you’re going to pay money to watch sub-par talent, you should just go to the casino and throw out your money and just walk away. I don’t blame fans at all for any sort of support or no support during lean times.
"But it’s going to be a whole lot different this year, and I think the AL Central is up for grabs. Division titles are very nice because you’re guaranteed a five-game set [in the postseason]. I’m hoping that the fans come out and we see a lot of numbers in the 20 (thousands), 25, 30. That would mean a lot to us. We’re going to continue to play ball. It’s going to be exciting.”
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