Dallas Keuchel

Why White Sox should still think playoffs heading into shortened 2020 season

Why White Sox should still think playoffs heading into shortened 2020 season

Finally, the most anticipated season of South Side baseball in years will commence.

And it’s only going to be 60 games long.

Indeed, the 2020 season has become a deflating one for White Sox fans, who were amped to see their team make the long awaited leap out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. That’s certainly still possible for the upcoming campaign, beginning at the end of next month, but even Paul Konerko is fearful that folks will look upon this year’s World Series winners as illegitimate champions.

Months ago, before COVID-19 cases started skyrocketing in the United States, the talk at Camelback Ranch was all about those playoff-or-bust expectations for the South Siders.

“I get a winning vibe, all positive and winning vibes,” Tim Anderson said in February. “Everybody knows what we are here to do. We are here to win a championship, and we are here to take it all.”

Here’s a question after three long, baseball-less months: Should the White Sox still be expected to reach October and snap a more than decade-long postseason drought?

Talk of an expanded playoff field made that look very possible, but after the negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players’ union turned sour, it will be the usual 10-team field of three division champs and two wild card teams from each league. But now instead of proving themselves worthy over baseball’s typical six-month marathon, a two-month snapshot will determine the teams that get to compete for a championship — something that would have kept the eventual-champion Washington Nationals out of the postseason thanks to their poor start last season.

The White Sox remain as capable of competing as they did before — perhaps they’re even better positioned now than they were in March — but a short season following a long layoff means the only thing that’s certain is uncertainty. We truly have no idea what will happen, considering none of these teams were built for a 60-game campaign.

Nonetheless, here’s a look at where the White Sox stood then and where they stand now.

Starting pitching

Lucas Giolito’s excellent campaign aside, 2019 was not a banner season for South Side starting pitching. That was expected to change in a big way in 2020. Giolito had a full season of ace-like performance under his belt, and he was joined at the top by free-agent addition Dallas Keuchel, who in addition to being a damn good pitcher brings winning experience from his days with the world-champion Houston Astros.

After going jobless into June last season with draft-pick compensation attached to his signing, Keuchel had to wait months to start pitching in games again. Well, for the second straight season, Keuchel will get only a few months’ worth of action through no fault of his own. Last year, it turned into a 3.75 ERA in 19 starts for the Atlanta Braves. This year?

That’s the thing, we have no idea what fate will befall starting pitchers, and we could see a radically different pitching strategy from teams across the league. Starting pitchers typically need roughly a month and a half of spring training to go from offseason mode to in-season mode, working their arms back into the swing of things. This season, they went from offseason mode to about a month of spring training to three months off. Now they’ll be expected to ramp back up in three weeks of a second spring training and then into a shortened season — where they won’t get the benefit of the early season cold weather that typically slows down opposing hitters.

Are they going to be ready to pitch seven innings from the jump? At all? Maybe not, and we could see an increased emphasis on bullpen usage, even more than we’ve seen in recent seasons. Starters could be going just four or five innings for a while, maybe even the entire season.

But the White Sox do have an advantage here, if not over other clubs then at least over the March version of themselves. The long layoff has not stopped the Tommy John recoveries of Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon and Dane Dunning, and the White Sox starting-pitching depth is in a better place with those guys a part of it. Instead of impact addition for part of the season, they could be impact players over the course of this "full" season. Perhaps an abundance of usable arms means the White Sox could attack opposing teams with combinations of starting pitchers for shorter spells. We’ll see what Rick Renteria wants to do.

Of course, merely having healthy versions of these guys does not guarantee performance. And huge questions remain about the kind of results we’ll see from Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease, who both had less than ideal numbers in 2019 despite flashes of brilliance.

RELATED: White Sox 2020 schedule will feature these nine opponents over 60 games

The young core

The last time we saw Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez and Tim Anderson playing big league games, they were having excellent Septembers, sparking great promise for the future.

Moncada finished his first major league season at third base as the team’s best all-around player and a star in the making. He hit .412 in September with a .455 on-base percentage. Jimenez hit nine of his 31 rookie-year home runs in September and drove in 25 runs in the season’s final month, slashing .340/.383/.710. Anderson hit .374 to close out his finest season as a big leaguer and win the batting title.

Sure, both Moncada and Anderson had sky-high BABIPs last season, signaling they hit into some incredibly good fortune in 2019, something that’s difficult to replicate from one year to the next. And Jimenez’ rookie season was hardly an unmitigated success, as he dealt with not to be unexpected growing pains in his first taste of the majors.

It’s impossible to predict whether their September successes might have carried over into April, but they showed plenty of signs of figuring things out for the better. And so the hopes remain high for that trio powering that vault into contention mode.

If there is a big question mark, it’s Luis Robert, who comes to the majors with even more hype than Jimenez, who called Robert “the next Mike Trout” back in January. Robert can truly do it all on the baseball field, a five-tool threat who dominated the minor leagues last season with moonshot homers, blazing speed and highlight-reel catches in center field.

But as anyone who watched Jimenez last season or Moncada the season before can tell you, even the most talented young players need time to adjust to major league pitching. Jimenez admitted he was trying to do too much in his first couple months in the big leagues. Moncada’s struggles were more severe, his first full season in 2018 ending with 217 strikeouts, one of the highest single-season totals in baseball history.

So will Robert experience the same? That remains to be seen. But what’s certain is that he will have almost no time to adjust, if he needs to, before the 2020 campaign is over. Even Trout, perhaps on the way to becoming the best baseball player ever, hit just .220 with a .281 on-base percentage in his first 40 major league games back in 2011.

The best players struggling to adjust to the majors is hardly unheard of, and without the benefit of a full campaign to settle into the swing of things, White Sox fans’ first impressions of Robert could be far less electrifying than expected.

Or maybe he’ll set the world on fire. We’ll see.

The power-hitting vets

The middle of the White Sox batting order was supposed to provide two unshakable things: power and consistency.

Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion can both thump, and they have both proven themselves to be two of the steadiest veteran bats in baseball over their big league careers. After freak injuries snapped a personal streak in 2018, Abreu got back to his 25-homer, 100-RBI ways last season. He won the AL RBI crown with a career-high 123 RBIs, and he came three homers shy of matching his career best in that category, too. Encarnacion, new to the White Sox on a free-agent deal, has hit at least 30 home runs in each of the last eight seasons.

Their track records are strong enough to expect that kind of thing again. These are those “fall out of bed and hit” types, and if anyone should be well suited to picking up where they left off despite a months-long layoff, it’s proven hitters like Abreu and Encarnacion.

But considering how long a 162-game season is, even the steadiest players can have their slumps. April, the first month out of spring training, has historically been Encarnacion’s worst, with just a .752 OPS in his career, though that could be chalked up to cold weather that rarely favors hitters. During a 30-game stretch in May and June last season, Abreu hit just .203 with a .665 OPS. In a normal season, stretches like that wouldn’t be a huge deal. Now, 30 games is half the season.

If the White Sox are going to contend for a playoff spot, even in this weirdest of seasons, they’ll need to get homers from these two. The power numbers last season were abysmal, with the White Sox owning a team-wide home run total of 182, one of just six big league teams to fail to hit 200 homers. In the American League, only the Royals and Tigers had lower team slugging percentages, and both those squads lost more than 100 games.

Hahn added power to this lineup, not just with Encarnacion but also with Yasmani Grandal and Nomar Mazara. Grandal — who will bring plenty more as an on-base machine and a strong presence behind the plate defensively — hit a career-best 28 homers last season. Mazara hit 79 home runs in four seasons with the Rangers, and the White Sox believe there’s even more to unlock.

Throw in Robert and a better adjusted Jimenez, and the White Sox are well positioned to be a drastically more powerful team. But the shortened schedule means little room for error and little time to benefit from adjustments.

RELATED: What protocols made it into MLB and MLBPA's health-and-safety agreement?

The bullpen

In an 89-loss campaign a year ago, the White Sox bullpen was a strength, particularly the back end of that bullpen. And that’s why retaining most of those arms coming into this season, and adding veteran Steve Cishek to the mix, seemed to set up a reliable unit for Renteria.

That should remain the case, but as with many if not all managers, Renteria might have to adjust how he uses his pitching staff in a vastly different landscape.

It all seems to depend on what kind of shape the starting staff can get into by the time the second round of spring training ends and the regular season begins. It’s possible some starters won’t be ready to pitch seven innings and build a bridge to the back end of the bullpen all by themselves.

As mentioned above, the White Sox could be in a better position than other teams, with potentially an excess of starting-pitching depth that could bleed into the bullpen. Rodon, Dunning and Gio Gonzalez could become mid-game options for Renteria that would take the pressure off the long or middle relievers who might not look quite as appealing as those back-end options.

And make no mistake, the back-end options are, certainly at the moment, good ones. Alex Colome might have had some moderately alarming splits between the first and second halves of 2019, but he still wound up with 30 saves and a 2.51 ninth-inning ERA. Aaron Bummer had an electric breakout campaign last year and finished with a 2.13 ERA that earned him a contract extension this spring. Cishek comes over from the Cubs, where he posted a 2.55 ERA in a whopping 150 appearances for Joe Maddon. Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero had solid campaigns last season, too, and the White Sox have high hopes for a turnaround from Kelvin Herrera.

Hahn will be the first to tell you, though, that when it comes to relievers, one season’s success does not automatically equal success the following season. And what happens if Renteria has to go outside of that mix with relative frequency, if for no other reason than the new normal of staff management?

The group holds plenty of promise and should be looked at as a strength until it proves otherwise. But that doesn’t erase all the questions in this most unusual season.

The competition

There will be no expanded playoff field, which obviously cuts down the chances that the White Sox — and plenty of other teams — reach the postseason. But this was a team that had its sights on the playoffs before the pandemic threw a wrench into everything. And so it still comes down to this: How do they stack up with the division-rival Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians?

Well, the Twins are still sluggers. They hit a major league record 307 home runs last season. They still have Nelson Cruz and Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver and Miguel Sano and Max Kepler.

And now they have Josh Donaldson, too.

Yes, the perennial MVP candidate is back in the division — he played 16 games with the Indians in 2018, which is easy to forget — and that’s not great news for the White Sox. After four straight top-10 MVP finishes from 2013 to 2016, Donaldson had a couple injury-shortened campaigns. But back to full health last season with the Atlanta Braves, he was back to his normal self: a .900 OPS to go along with 37 homers, 94 RBIs and 100 walks. Plus, Donaldson rakes against White Sox pitching, with a career 1.122 OPS vs. the South Siders.

So that Minnesota lineup only got better. But the rotation? That’s another story. Outside of ace Jose Berrios at the top, the Twins’ staff isn’t exactly terrifying. They did a good job in retaining Jake Odorizzi, and the addition of Kenta Maeda was certainly not a bad one. But these aren’t the kind of pitchers who typically strike a great deal of fear into opposing hitters.

Like the kind of pitchers they have in Cleveland.

Yes, these Indians aren’t talked frequently about in the same breath as the Twins after they finished eight games out first place and missed the playoffs last season. But even after they dealt Trevor Bauer away last summer, even after they dealt two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber away this offseason, they still might have the best rotation in baseball. Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Zach Plesac. Are you kidding?

Plus, the Indians still boast two of the American League’s top hitters on the left side of the infield in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. Overall, though, the lineup is not as fearsome as it has been.

And so the White Sox truly appear to be the most balanced of the three teams. That’s awful dependent, though, on how things shake out. For all the promise the South Siders have up and down the roster, they have plenty of question marks, too. The season, even in this shortened format, could hinge on whether Robert can hit the ground running, whether Cease and Lopez can put together two consistently good months, whether Kopech can be the pitcher he was promised to be before Tommy John surgery, whether Keuchel can stabilize the rotation, whether Moncada, Anderson and Jimenez can carry their white-hot Septembers over nearly a year later.

We’ll see.

But the White Sox certainly look capable of doing damage and capable of competing right alongside both the Twins and Indians for the AL Central crown.

Playoffs? They haven’t come to the South Side in more than a decade. But just like they looked possible in March, they look possible heading into July. And they should still be a realistic expectation for the White Sox.

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5 predictions from White Sox players that might not end up sounding so crazy

5 predictions from White Sox players that might not end up sounding so crazy

It’s more than a little difficult to make predictions for the 2020 season when we’re still waiting to hear if there will be a 2020 season.

But with excitement building about the long-term future on the South Side for years now, there has been no shortage of bold predictions.

So why not revisit some of the wilder ones — and see if they'll end up sounding so crazy?

1. Tim Anderson will win a Gold Glove

“I’m not saying I’m going to get it this year, not saying next year,” Anderson said during spring training. “We don’t know when it will be, but I know I will get one.”

Predictions might not get bolder than that — spoiler alert, they will — considering that the White Sox shortstop led baseball in errors last season, charged with 26 of them. In fact, he’s piled up the errors in his four-year major league career, with 88 of them since debuting in 2016.

That’s a lot of errors.

While Anderson electrified fans with what he did at the plate last season, he’s earned their gripes when it comes to his defense, and though he’s probably a lot better than the numbers say — thanks to an ability to make some terrific plays that not a lot of guys can make — everyone knows his defense needs to improve.

But the White Sox have a great deal of confidence that it will. Anderson “knowing” that he’ll end up a Gold Glove winner wasn’t him going off on some unpopular monologue. His general manager has a similar belief.

“Tim Anderson is going to be a Gold Glove contender at some point during his career at shortstop,” Rick Hahn said in January. “I firmly believe that, given his ability to get to balls and make plays that other people are unable to make. Getting more consistent on some of the routine things is still a work in progress. But I think you’re going to see better things out of him.”

And while plenty of fans out there who like to grumble about Anderson’s results in the field will roll their eyes at those comments, remember that it seemed just as unlikely that Anderson would win a batting title last year after hitting just .240 a season earlier.

We’ll have to wait until the White Sox start playing games again to figure out how much progress Anderson made with the glove in one offseason, but one thing’s for sure: People should probably stop suggesting things he can’t do.

2. The White Sox rotation will be among the most dominant in baseball

“I think that in the future we can be one of the most dominant rotations in baseball,” Lucas Giolito said last summer. “You look at the raw stuff we all have, it’s there. It’s just a matter of continuing to build confidence, gain experience and at the end of the day, just going out there and executing.

“I think with more time and experience, we’re just going to continue to get better and better.”

Giolito’s positive projection came in the middle of a 2019 season in which the White Sox biggest problem was their starting rotation. Not him, of course, as the right-hander transformed himself from the starting pitcher with baseball’s worst numbers in 2018 into an All Star and the ace of the South Side staff.

But between injuries and under performance from the parade of ineffective plug-in options, the numbers from the starting pitchers were, overall, not pretty last season. Reynaldo Lopez was woefully inconsistent, the results were not there in Dylan Cease’s first taste of the majors, and Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon and Dane Dunning spent the year recovering from Tommy John surgery.

RELATED: How White Sox could handle Nick Madrigal, Andrew Vaughn in shortened season

But while question marks might abound, the optimism hasn’t gone anywhere when it comes to a rotation that could power the White Sox to perennial contention in the years to come.

Giolito established himself as an ace. Kopech came back in spring training and lit up the radar gun in his first inning of action. Cease’s stuff still gets rave reviews despite those 14 starts’ worth of numbers. Rodon, Dunning and another Tommy John recoverer, Jimmy Lambert, are on the road back. Even Lopez showed flashes of brilliance amid his struggles last year.

They all throw hard. Really hard.

And Hahn went out and inked Cy Young winner and world champion Dallas Keuchel to a deal that keeps him on the South Side for three years, perhaps four. He could play a similar role to the one Jon Lester did on the North Side, providing some veteran reliability and winning cache to a young rotation and a young team looking to jump to the next level.

While plenty of questions remain — some of the team’s biggest heading into the 2020 season involve the starting pitchers — the ingredients for a potentially dominant rotation are there.

White Sox fans have been forecasting a rotation of the future for years. Giolito has been, too. And he’s seeing big things.

3. Eloy Jimenez will hit 500 home runs in his career

“As a baseball player, he can be whatever he wants to be,” Edwin Encarnacion said about Jimenez during spring training. “He has the talent to hit over 500 homers in the major leagues. I know he can do it.”

“I look at him as the Babe Ruth of our generation,” Kopech said a year earlier.

See? I told you there would be more outlandish ones to come.

Jimenez has played one season of Major League Baseball and has 31 home runs to his name. Is Encarnacion forecasting 469 more a little crazy? Yeah, it is. But Jimenez has already done some things that you could classify as a little crazy.

In his first taste of the big leagues last season, Jimenez unquestionably struggled at times. He experienced the growing pains a whole lot of rookies do. But when he got hot, he got red hot, and only injured-list stays stemming from misadventures in left field slowed his momentum.

He showed how quickly he is able to rack up dingers, hitting 10 of them in the final 24 games before the All-Star break, including that game-winner June 18 at Wrigley Field. As part of a smoking September, he hit nine homers in the final 22 games of the season.

Now iron out those adjustment periods and imagine what things could look like during a full season.

Jimenez had eyes popping with his power displays throughout his rookie season, frequently crushing balls to dead center. Aside from the unscriptable moment on the North Side, one that’s lodged in the memory banks is the ball he crushed to the fan deck off Patrick Corbin, the same guy who won Game 7 of the World Series for the Nationals months later.

This prognosticator guessed 36 homers for Jimenez in his rookie year, and without those two trips to the injured list, he probably would have done it. Maybe guessing 500 for the guy isn’t so nuts after all.

4. Luis Robert will be the next Mike Trout

Remember when we talked about Jimenez and doing some things that are a little crazy?

This gem from SoxFest certainly fits that script.

“Some people are going to call me crazy,” he said of the White Sox top-ranked prospect back in January, “but he’s going to be the next Mike Trout.

“He has five tools, and he plays hard like Mike Trout.”

The Robert hype machine has been cranked up to 11 for some time now. Jimenez somehow found a way to get it to 12, which would impress even Nigel Tufnel.

Trout is unquestionably the best baseball player in the world and could be well on his way to becoming the greatest baseball player ever. To compare him to a guy that has yet to play in a major league game? Come on.

Right?

RELATED: How White Sox benefit — and don't — from proposed MLB changes for 2020 season

Well, Robert is getting that kind of over-the-top praise from the evaluators, who suggest he’ll wind up the best of the White Sox bunch of crazy young talent.

As Jimenez mentioned, Robert boasts a full complement of tools: He can hit, hit for eye-popping power, make incredible defensive plays in the field, run with blazing speed and unleash a hose of an arm from center field. And you don’t have to take my word for it. The dude hit some tape-measure shots in the minors that still have teammates shaking their heads. Playing in the Arizona Fall League, he scored from second base on a sac fly. And his abilities were all the rage at spring training.

“He can do it on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive side,” Nick Madrigal said in February. “He’ll hit a 400-plus-foot home run one day, and then he’ll make a Superman catch in the outfield. It seems like he can do it all. Stealing bases every day. He’s definitely the complete package.

“It just seems like he’s a different player out there, you know? Sometimes when he’s locked in, it seems like he makes the game look pretty easy. One pitch, it looks like he gets fooled, and the next pitch, he’s hitting it out of the ballpark.”

Sounds kind of like someone else, doesn’t it? We’ll see.

5. The White Sox are going to make the playoffs in 2020

Perhaps no one has made a Namath-esque guarantee yet. But an October featuring the White Sox has been the No. 1 discussion topic for months.

Even before everyone descended on Camelback Ranch in February, the expectations were set: Playoffs or bust.

“I would be disappointed if we don’t make the postseason,” Renteria said in January.

“Our goal will 100-percent be making the playoffs and getting as deep as we can,” Giolito said last September. “If we don’t, then I don’t think we’ve come close to what we should be doing.”

There was already an expectation that this young group would take the next step toward opening its contention window when Hahn had arguably the best offseason in baseball, adding impact free agents to his collection of young stars in the making.

Encarnacion and Yasmani Grandal have been to each of the last five postseasons, and Keuchel has been to four of the last five. They expect those streaks to continue.

“I told Rick Hahn this,” Keuchel said during the spring, “I said four out of the last five years I've made the playoffs, and I don't expect any of these three years (during his contract) to be any different.”

Of course, the first step toward making this one come true is the existence of a 2020 season. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the most anticipated seasons of South Side baseball in years. But should the league and the players’ union find a way to play this year, there will be a chance for the White Sox to snap their playoff drought. And expanded postseason boosting the American League field from five teams to seven teams helps those chances.

No matter how long a shortened 2020 season ends up being, the goals won’t deviate from what they were in February.

“We have a chance to do something crazy,” Anderson said. “That’s what everybody is talking about, right? So why not own up to it and set the bar high, go to the playoffs and win the championship. That’s the goal, right?

“We didn’t come here to work for nothing. We come here to win championships and make it to the playoffs. That’s no secret. Everybody knows we are here to win championships.”

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White Sox pitcher Dallas Keuchel enduring another troubling wait for baseball

White Sox pitcher Dallas Keuchel enduring another troubling wait for baseball

Dallas Keuchel knows from experience what it’s like to have something so central to your life get completely stripped away.

As we all wait out the global pandemic that has stopped most of the world in its tracks, the White Sox pitcher is also faced with the daily concern that the coronavirus could touch one of his closest family members, his older sister, who’s on the front lines of the fight.

“I pray to the good lord every day that this thing ends quicker than later,” Keuchel said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast.

As important as baseball is to Keuchel, it takes a backseat to the real-world problems of the pandemic and the concern that its invisible tentacles could touch his sister, Krista, a registered nurse who works at a hospital in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“I know she is on the front line helping people. I do pray for her every day, just to make sure that she’s safe,” Keuchel said.

The realities of being a hospital worker in these conditions have become all too real for Keuchel and his family.

“She’s got two kids, a husband. It would be devastating for her to come into contact with it or anything associated with it because she’s told me that when she comes home from work she has to change outside in the garage, and have the kids in another room, and then go shower immediately before she comes in contact with them because of the fear of the spread,” Keuchel explained. “She works her butt off.

“I’m very proud to be her brother, but at a time like this it worries me. She worries me a lot.”

Like everyone living through these unparalleled and unknowable times, Keuchel's priority is the health and safety of his family.

But as the baseball world idles, hoping to hear word on when it can start spinning again, Keuchel endures his second such wait in as many years.

Go back a year to this very time when the league was up and running. Baseball filled the air, though not for Keuchel. He was stuck at home in limbo, without a team, without a contract, trying to stay in shape not knowing if or when he’d be back on a professional mound in 2019.

He and fellow free agent Craig Kimbrel drew a line in the sand against the powers that be, missing out on spring training and the first two months of the season, holding out for contracts they believe they deserved.

“Where the game was at last year for myself and Craig Kimbrel, it was to set off for the greater good of the players, for the players' purposes for the CBA coming up and what we stand for,” Keuchel said. “It was Craig and myself at the forefront. Hopefully that serves well.”

Keuchel eventually signed with the Braves on June 7. Kimbrel signed with the Cubs the same day.

RELATED: 10 questions with Dallas Keuchel, White Sox starting pitcher

But here we are, one year later. The game has been shut down. And despite signing a three-year $55.5 million contract with the White Sox this offseason, Keuchel is doing the math in his head, calculating how much baseball he’s missing. He’s in his 30s at a time when a pitcher’s shelf life is limited — and it troubles him.

“For me to sit out three months last year, it really ate at me for quite a few times, and I had to tell myself, ‘Hey, it’s all going to work out.’ But now this year with the virus happening, I’m adding up three months of last year and then potentially three or maybe more months of this year, that’s a whole season that I don’t get back in the course of my career which I’d love to be on the field,” Keuchel said. “I’m not a selfish guy by any means, but who knows what kind of numbers I could have put up in the three months last year and the three months this year. Everybody is in the same boat this year with this pandemic that’s going on.

“That’s something that will probably eat at me and be in the back of my mind for a very long time.”

From the sound of it, Major League Baseball is open to trying almost anything to get the players back on the field, assuming they get the green light from medical and scientific professionals.

Play the season at spring training sites in Florida and Arizona?

“It’s kind of just throw an idea in the barrel, swirl it around and see what comes out,” Keuchel said. “It’s just ideas for days now, I guess, and whatever makes sense or doesn't make sense still makes sense.”

Which three months ago wouldn’t have made any sense. A pandemic suspending the season? That’s a movie you’d have to pay me to watch. Instead, it’s become real life.

Trying to predict the future and when baseball will return is impossible at this point. We’re still in the middle of the storm. And while Keuchel isn’t a doctor or scientist, he feels deep down in his gut that the sport will return in 2020. He can’t think any other way.

“I don’t know when it’s going to be, but I will not let my mind go to, ‘This is a wash of a season.’ Until that happens I say we’re going to play. That’s what I’ll think no matter who tells me what until there’s word that it’s done. I still think we’re going to play.”

If that happens, he foresees the sport helping to heal the country.

“I saw what baseball can do for a city in Houston in 2017 after the hurricane. It was something that you see out of a movie. The city just wrapped itself around the baseball team. It was something that still gives me goosebumps to this day,” Keuchel said.

So we’ll wait for the skies to clear and hope that day comes.

“I think baseball could be a huge remedy for what’s going on in America right now. It’s such a traditional sport that I think people would just love to see it back being played back live. Having a hot dog, eating popcorn and drinking a beer in the stands or whatever is going to happen.

“I think that’s what people would flock to.”

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