Through Dallas Keuchel’s extensive Major League experience – which consists of eight years and 202 starts – he figures there are 5-10 starts a season in which he’s completely locked in.
He describes the feeling as being able to “go out there and know you're going to be locked in from the moment that first pitch goes out of your hand to whenever you're done.” The rest of the season – usually 24 or 25 starts – are just “coin flips.”
Well, considering that Keuchel was so good in Wednesday’s intrasquad game that it actually created a problem (he was literally too efficient and couldn’t get in as many pitches as he wanted to in 3.2 innings of work), you would think he would file the outing under “locked in.”
Somehow, that was not the case.
“Today was one of those days where it was coin flip, but we managed to make some pitches when I had to,” he said on his postgame Zoom chat with reporters.
Officially, Keuchel faced 11 batters and got all 11 outs. By intrasquad standards, it was a perfect game. So if that was a coin flip, White Sox fans should be excited.
Keuchel needed just 34 pitches to get through the lineup and record nine outs. To get more work in – and create some sort of jam to get out of – runners were placed at second and third with one out to start the fourth inning. Keuchel promptly forced Leury Garcia to groundout to second baseman Nick Madrigal (who threw Yermin Mecedes out at home plate) and then got Andrew Vaughn to groundout to Tim Anderson to end the abbreviated inning.
Hence, the 3.2 perfect innings.
“My mental hurdle is going to be the 4.2 or 5 innings and try to push that pitch count up,” Keuchel said.
He should get one more outing to accomplish that goal. If he can get there, then he believes he’ll be ready to go 6-plus innings in his first regular season start, which could come July 25 against the Minnesota Twins.
Interestingly, Keuchel pitched Wednesday’s game entirely out of the stretch.
“I feel locked in. I've been out of the stretch exclusively and that's because I feel so locked in with that I might just keep it going,” he said. “So I might be a left-handed, softer version of Stephen Strasburg.”
Right now, Keuchel looks more like a different dominating pitcher that White Sox fans are familiar with: Mark Buehrle. Keuchel pitched with such efficiency, dotting the corners consistently, that if not for the beard and No. 60 on the jersey, you might have actually thought it was Buehrle pitching.
“I watched Buehrle for years,” Keuchel said. “He was probably way too fast for me because that just seemed like it was rapid pace, but man, he was really good at that.”
But both pitchers have an extremely appeasing style of pitching when they are in a groove, which Keuchel certainly was Wednesday.
“Just knowing yourself is the biggest key now,” he said. “Pace and understanding of yourself are really big keys to my game.”
And right now, knowing himself means knowing that he should stick with pitching out of the stretch.
“The windup hasn't really felt phenomenal to me, but then the other side of it is that the stretch has felt so locked in that I might just go with that,” Keuchel said. “I'm going to continue to work on everything and see where it goes in the next 10 days because as soon as something clicks in the windup, I mean, it's just going to be there like the stretch is, but right now it's not there.”
The good news is that Keuchel feels like it much more important to be able to pitch out of the stretch. In fact, he usually starts camp focusing on the stretch and letting that dictate his windup because “the most important pitches are out of the stretch and you need to make quality, quality pitches out of the stretch during the course of a 34 start-season if you want to be a household name or a perennial All-Star.”
Keuchel delivered nothing but quality pitches from the stretch Wednesday. And if he keeps that going, the White Sox are going to be awfully happy with their free agent addition in 2020.