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As Dallas Keuchel struggled to tread water, his postgame quotes often reflected reality that only Keuchel could see.
If you were charitable, you’d chalk it up to a veteran with some of baseball’s least imposing stuff requiring outward confidence to bounce back; faking it to resume making it. If you didn’t want to give him the benefit of the doubt, you saw a guy who only pointed a finger at himself to identify whose fault it wasn’t.
But in this last après-dud go-around, I noticed that Tony La Russa wasn’t as willing to indulge delusions.
“I’m feeling myself, so that is a frustrating aspect of the last two starts. I was really, really feeling like myself in Boston, and then against New York at home, so to take a couple steps back is very frustrating. I knew that they were going to be looking out over the plate, and just one of those things where the cutter, right now, has been the pitch that’s kind of snake-bitten for me. It’s like five out of six pitches are really good, and then the one that’s not really good is getting hit.”
And here’s La Russa:
“Right away, most of the balls are in the air which shows that, at that point, movement wasn’t there. Location wasn’t there. So, that’s what I think. Today, when they start getting balls in the air, that means, at that point, he’s not sharp.
“Today was atypical for him, which happens to pitchers. Some days, stuff is not working as well and you don’t get the normal kind of outing. Believe me, he wanted to go more than two innings and we wanted him to go more than two innings.”
The previous time out, Keuchel was grouchy that La Russa pulled him after five innings, so I’m tempted to read that last sentence as a dig.
And maybe it was, because the White Sox designated Keuchel for assignment this afternoon. We’ll learn about the rotation plans later, but for the time being, they called up Danny Mendick to take his spot on the roster.
Keuchel dropped to 2-5 with a 7.88 ERA over 32 innings in 2022, with career worsts in most meaningful categories. He finished 17-16 with a 4.79 ERA over his time with the White Sox, and he’ll leave with a little more than $13 million of his three-year, $55 million contract still owed to him.
It’s both a positive move and an unflattering one. The White Sox needed to make a decision that showed a dissatisfaction with the status quo, and with Davis Martin, Vince Velasquez, Reynaldo López and Lance Lynn all options for starts over the coming weeks, Keuchel was the easiest one to swap out, even if his contractual obligation was the largest to swallow.
On the other hand, it’s Rick Hahn admitting that a key component of his free-agent strategy in this rebuild has faltered. The White Sox avoided splurging on the open market and instead settled for guys who couldn’t demand nine figures for considerable reasons. For Keuchel, it was the risk of decline for a guy whose fastball sat south of 90 mph. That manifested itself halfway through his deal, and it never relented.
The White Sox have an off day on Monday to rearrange their rotation accordingly, so we’ll see how the White Sox deploy or delay the next man up. We’ll also get to see if Keuchel’s postgame deflections only annoyed fans, or if they rankled teammates and management.