By Ross Forman
Dallas Keuchel owes Cy Young Award credit to … his mom, Teresa.
Though it was a joking comment from son to mom, she truly pushed the powerful left-handed pitcher for the Houston Astros, who claimed the 2015 American League Cy Young Award after compiling a 20-8 record, a 2.48 ERA and 216 strikeouts in 232 innings pitched.
“I told my mom, almost jokingly, that I was going to win the Cy Young, and that (statement) was basically just motivation for her to get back to her routine. She had been lax in her workouts, so I told her that if she started working out again, then I was going to win the Cy Young. Sure enough, she started working out again and I won the Cy Young,” Keuchel said.
“She thinks that her working out won me the Cy Young … and we’ll just keep it that way.”
In 2015, Keuchel led the American League in wins, innings pitched, ERA+ and WHIP. He was, without question, one of the main reasons his Astros were playing in October.
“The 2015 season really was more than I ever could have imagined,” Keuchel said. “I never could have imagined the success that we had, the turnaround that we had from 2010 to 2015. You don’t see that in such a short period of time. And it will only be (further) success from here on out.
“The 2015 season was very cool, probably one of the most special years of my life. I made my major league debut in 2012; it was a learning curve year for me in 2013, and got a lot of good experience that I have put to good use. Since then, I have just told myself to keep looking forward; don’t look back. I never could have imagined all that happened last year.
“I’d like to win another Cy Young, but there definitely is some stiff competition.
But I’d trade a World Series championship for the Cy Young Award.”
Keuchel recorded his 20th win in a 21-5 road victory over Arizona on Oct. 2. He pitched six innings that day to earn wins in his last three starts of the regular season. He also was on the mound for playoff wins over the N.Y. Yankees and the Kansas City Royals.
But it was the Royals who went on to World Series fame in 2015.
“I think 2016 is going to be exciting (for the Astros),” Keuchel said. “We have a couple of great additions. Doug Fister, who is a proven pitcher with a good pedigree. Plus, he’s 6-foot-8, so that will help our height requirement for the starting rotation.”
Ken Giles also joined the Astros during the offseason, and Keuchel tagged Giles as a “flame-throwing relief pitcher.”
“We’re looking to a happy and healthy 2016,” Keuchel said.
So how far can the Astros go in 2016?
“It’d be cliché to say, to the World Series. But I will at least say to the (American League) Championship Series,” Keuchel said. “We had a lead in all three of the games that we lost (in the 2015 playoffs) to the Royals, so that was very disappointing, obviously.
“The ALCS title is very much within our grasp, and we know that.”
The agony of 2015 will be motivation in 2016.
“The city of Houston and the Astros are back on the Major League Baseball map,” Keuchel said. “The toughest part of 2015 was just watching the season end, seeing everyone go their own way and just knowing the 2015 season was over.
“My goal for 2016 is to stay healthy throughout spring training and the regular season. You can’t help the team if you’re on the disabled list.”
Keuchel said the Houston teammate who he anticipates will have a breakout season in 2016 is catcher Jason Castro, who was an All-Star in 2013.
“He’s steadily made improvements on his defensive ability,” Keuchel said. “There are a lot of good-hitting catchers, but there are not a lot of good defensive catchers. His defensive ability is second to none. I wouldn’t even take Yadier Molina over Castro. He’s that good.”
Last season also saw some personal milestones for Keuchel, including being named the starting pitcher for the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
“I have my pre-game routine, and it’s pretty strict,” Keuchel said. “At the All-Star Game, I didn’t really know what to do (time-wise). We were the visitors, and the game started about 30 minutes later than the scheduled start time. So my routine was off.
“I was in the tunnel for 30 minutes stretching. My heart was racing, and I was sweating. It was the most nervous I’ve ever been because I not only wanted to represent the Astros, but the American League.”
All of this success has led to Keuchel being popular on the signing circuit, too. He signed autographs at the Tristar Productions Collectors Show, held Feb. 12-14 in Houston.
“This is the 30th anniversary show for Tristar; it couldn’t be much better than this,” Keuchel said. “Tristar really puts on a great show. They do it so professionally. Plus, it’s great meeting and seeing so many other athletes, such as (Craig) Biggio and (Roger) Clemens. Heck, I still get a little jittery seeing some of the other athletes (at shows). It’s very cool.”
Keuchel admitted before the show that he wanted to snag a signature from Curt Schilling. “He’s definitely one whose signature I’d like to get,” Keuchel said.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.