Braves’ Keuchel allows 3 runs in 7 innings in Double-A game

PEARL, Miss. (AP) — Dallas Keuchel has thrown 14 innings of minor league baseball for two teams in two states over the past six days. There were a lot of good pitches and a few bad ones, but overall he’s pleased with his progress since signing with the Atlanta Braves on June 7.

Next stop — he hopes — is with the big club.

“Absolutely,” Keuchel said. “I feel like I’m there.”

The 31-year-old left-hander gave up three runs and 11 hits over seven innings for Double-A Mississippi of the Southern League on Saturday. He struck out four and walked one, throwing 106 pitches, including 74 strikes.

It wasn’t all pretty, but Keuchel said the outing was just what he needed to get ready for his return to the big leagues. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2018, when he had a 12-11 record and a 3.74 ERA with the Houston Astros.

“They put some balls in play on the ground, a couple in the air, a couple hard-hit balls. Almost like a regular game,” Keuchel said. “So that was nice to see from my end for work purposes. Just trying to continue the process of making as many pitches as possible.”

The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner signed a one-year deal that pays him $13 million. The Braves hope he can help solidify a starting rotation that’s relying on several young arms.

Keuchel said after the outing he felt good physically and would have a discussion with the Braves’ front office and trainers to see if his next outing would be in the majors or with another minor league affiliate.

“I’m not going to jeopardize myself, first of all, because if I jeopardize myself I’m going to jeopardize the big-league team and that’s not what I’m trying to do,” Keuchel said. “I’m trying to help the club as much as possible. I’m not trying to rush myself.”

Keuchel pitched seven innings of one-hit ball for Class-A Rome on Monday in his first game, but wasn’t as sharp Saturday. He gave up two runs on three hits in the first inning, including a sharply hit double on the first pitch.

He also fought a little bad luck during the outing: One single in the first was a weak pop fly that floated over the first baseman and past his glove. Another hit later in the game was a bouncing ball to the left side that took a funky hop and slipped between the shortstop and third baseman.

“I felt like my breaking stuff and changeup were a little inconsistent at first,” Keuchel said. “I was a little antsy out there. The adrenaline was a little more than last time. Once I hone that in, I should be good. It was nice to compete out there.”

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