Pittsburgh Pirates: Strong Spring for Mitch Keller Continues
Tuesday afternoon Mitch Keller turned in another strong start as his impressive spring with the Pittsburgh Pirates continued
Entering spring training there were few players the Pittsburgh Pirates had in camp with more to prove than pitcher Mitch Keller. While it has just been three Grapefruit League starts, thus far, Keller is passing that test.
The former top 25 overall prospect in all of baseball has struggled throughout his MLB career. In 170.1 innings pitched across 39 starts Keller owns a 6.02 ERA, but the Pirates have continued to give Keller every opportunity possible. However, those opportunities have yet to lead to results which likely makes 2022 a make or break season for Keller.
In Tuesday afternoon’s 6-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox the righty held the Sox scoreless in a spring high 4 innings pitched. Keller allowed just 5 hits, did not walk a batter and struck 4. He has now allowed 7 hits, has struck out 7 batters and issued just a single walk in 8.2 scoreless innings pitched.
What’s encouraging about Keller’s spring goes much deeper than just his results. The most encouraging part of his spring has stemmed from how he has looked on the mound, as well as how his stuff has looked.
Keller has looked more confident than ever on the mound. This has been great to see as a lack of confidence and poor body language has long plagued Keller. Many people, including many of us here at Rum Bunter, have long said Keller could use some A.J. Burnett mentality in him, it appears Keller is finally embracing the “f—- you, here’s my stuff, try and hit it” mindset.
Keller’s stuff has also looked the best it has in a long time. He was a bit of an offseason darling with his fastball sitting in the high 90s and touching 100 MPH while working out. That fastball velocity has carried over to spring training. His curveball and slider have also looked better than ever with tremendous bite.
Now, obviously, Keller will have to prove it in games that matter, but that does not make his spring results any less encouraging. Last spring he allowed 15 runs on 23 hits, 3 home runs and 8 walks in 11.1 innings pitched. When the start of the COVID pandemic shutdown spring training in 2020 Keller had allowed 6 runs on 6 hits, 3 walks, and 2 home runs in 9.0 innings pitched. Spring 2019 saw Keller allowed 10 runs on 10 hits, 3 home runs, and 3 walks in 4.0 innings pitched.
Spring training success is something new to Keller. In past season’s his struggles started with poor outings in the spring. This alone makes Keller’s outings this spring encouraging. Hopefully it’s the start of Keller having new found confidence leading to new found success.