Mitch Keller's story one of persistence, hard work paying off

Mitch Keller has overcome a rocky start to his career to become the highest paid pitcher in Pirate history

Feb 14, 2024; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Mitch Keller (23) works out at
Feb 14, 2024; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Mitch Keller (23) works out at / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
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Despite a rough start to his major league career, Mitch Keller has rebounded to become the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates, earning a contract extension from the team

On Thursday, news broke that the Pittsburgh Pirates and starting pitcher Mitch Keller had agreed to a five-year contract extension. With this, Keller joined left fielder Bryan Reynolds and third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes as cornerstone pieces the Pirates have locked up in recent seasons.

Keller's extension is a bit different than the other two mentioned. Unlike Hayes and Reynolds, there was a point in time when Keller's future in the majors appeared in doubt. To his credit, he has worked his tail off to solidify himself as the Pirate ace, as well as becoming the highest paid pitcher in franchise history.

In May of 2022, the Pirates removed Keller from the team's starting rotation. Many pitchers would have crumbled in this situation with their career potentially ending up on the rocks. To Keller's credit, the complete opposite happened and, instead, he has developed into one of the best starting pitchers in the National League.

On May 31st of the 2022 season Keller re-joined the Pirate starting rotation. Since then, he has pitched 314.2 innings in 54 starts. Keller owns a 3.83 ERA, 3.76 FP, 7.5% walk rate, 23.6% strikeout rate, and has allowed home runs at a 0.97 HR/9 clip. This includes Keller being named a National League All-Star in 2023.

Keller bouncing back to earn this contract extension is a reflection of hard work. The 27-year-old righty deserves all of the credit in the world for the way he has worked to reach this point. Instead of letting early career struggles define him, Keller has instead excelled.

Keller has become one of the rare instances in sports where a player's career appeared to be on the brink of going up in flames, but instead of things flaming out they turned things around. For doing this Keller deserves a ton of credit.

Adding to the credit he deserves, Keller went above and beyond to improve. He did not just work with the Pirate coaching staff, but he also sought out help on his own outside of the organization. The above and beyond type of steps many athletes would not take.

When Keller was removed from the Pirate starting rotation in May of 2022 it was unclear if he even had a future in the majors. Sicne then, he has worked relentelessly to turn his career around. This work has resulted in Keller become an All-Star, one of the best starting pitchers in the National League, and, now, the highest paid pitcher in Pirate franchise history.

Keller's story is truly one of persistence. It is one of hard work in the face of adversity paying off, resulting in both the player and organization benefitting. Now, the Pirates and Keller are ready to work together to attempt to put the team back on a winning track.

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