Dallas Keuchel’s rise from middling Houston Astros left-hander to 2015 AL All-Star Game starting pitcher forced everyone around the league to take notice.
Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, too, had to revisit some comments he made to the media in May 2014. After Keuchel dominated the Mariners one game, McClendon was quoted as sounding quite frustrated about the Mariners’ struggles offensively. McClendon added that, "at some point you’ve got to stop giving credit to average pitchers" (as quoted by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle).
That ‘average pitchers’ phrase was the key. Was McClendon referring to Keuchel as ‘average’? As early as May 2014, nobody really expected much from Keuchel, as he was on the cusp of breaking out. Now, though, he’s a stud and is in the Cy Young race in the American League.
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With McClendon on the AL All-Star coaching staff this week in Cincinnati, he was asked about those comments on Monday – the same day it was revealed that Keuchel would start the All-Star Game. As Drellich quotes the manager, he says he didn’t mean that statement to become such a big deal: "No, that’s not what I said. I’ll tell you exactly what I said. And I likened him to Tom Glavine, I said he’s a good pitcher that had average stuff. Tom Glavine had average stuff. He’s a Hall of Famer. That’s what I said, so. It was taken way out of proportion."
You see, McClendon says, ‘average’ in the context he intended refers to throwing with a lot of velocity – something Keuchel doesn’t do, instead relying on finesse and control. As he said to Drellich: "And at the time, the manager (Bo Porter) said he was going to give me a call on it. I’m still waiting on the call. Haven’t heard from the guy. ‘Cause it was taken way out of context. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the kid. Obviously, what he accomplished last year and what he accomplished this year. But when I say average stuff, he doesn’t have 97, 98 (mph stuff), overpowering. Not that he’s not a good pitcher. I never said that."