Just 12 hours after Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel was unceremoniously removed from his final start of the season, the meeting began. Keuchel sat down with interim manager Tony DeFrancesco, pitching coach Doug Brocail and Craig Bjornson to plot what's next -- how to take the next 4 1/2 months after an up-and-down season and prepare for what should be a big fight for a rotation spot.
By Wednesday's season finale, Keuchel won't be alone. While the Astros can't have these debriefings for everybody, the starting pitchers are now in their last trip through the rotation. So expect one for Jordan Lyles, who threw his first career shutout in a 7-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, to follow the conversation for Keuchel.
Keuchel allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings Saturday, giving him plenty to think about headed into his first offseason as a major-leaguer. He struck out just 38 in 85 1/3 innings on the way to a 5.27 ERA but was able to have success with his sinker at times.
"He's going to have to battle for a job," interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "He's going to have to be a guy that comes in and uses his sinker down and away. He's going to have to use his changeup. His breaking ball has to have a little more bite to it. He's learning at the major-league level, but to stay here he's going to have to make some major adjustments."
DeFrancesco said the group talked in the meeting about that and more: how to hold on runners, a plan to get Keuchel bigger and stronger in the offseason, the need to keep home runs to a minimum.
There will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 candidates for the rotation, and Keuchel knows he'll need to show something going forward.
"Kind of disappointing to end on this note," Keuchel said. "But I can always get better and look forward to next year."