Thank goodness Dallas Keuchel has that big beard.
Otherwise, it'd be easy to think there was a White Sox game from 2005 on your TV on Saturday afternoon. Because boy, does No. 60 bring to mind No. 56.
Keuchel is a throwback in today's game, no doubt about it, working quick and getting his outs via the ground ball. While everyone else steps on the mound trying to blow batters away, Keuchel just wants to get them out.
"He's pretty darn good," White Sox catcher James McCann said after Saturday's game. "He's almost a dying breed in today's game. He attacks the strike zone and mixes all four pitches consistently, and he's not a guy that's bringing upper 90s heat. He manages to get the job done. He's a lot of fun to catch, and the way that he works, the defense loves him. He works quick, and he pounds the zone."
All that was on display during Keuchel's first regular-season start in a White Sox uniform Saturday against the Twins. He was virtually unhittable through his first five innings, getting the powerful Twins lineup to hit into one ground out after another. Even when balls were hit to the outfield, they were caught easily by White Sox defenders.
That defense was the only thing that kept the bases from being completely clear during those five innings. Yoán Moncada and José Abreu couldn't connect on a very tough play to lead off the fourth inning, an infield single that could have conceivably been ruled an error. Two plays later, Tim Anderson whiffed on a sharp ground ball, that one ruled an error.
Any controversy stemming from a scoring decision, though, was snuffed out in the sixth inning, when two line-drive base hits put two Twins on base and chased Keuchel. He got tagged for two runs when Steve Cishek gave up a three-run homer to White Sox killer extraordinaire Nelson Cruz later in the inning.
But Keuchel got his win in the 10-3 victory for the South Siders. More importantly, perhaps, he showed the team can count on him to get a bunch more.
Keuchel was brought aboard to bolster the rotation with a dependable veteran presence. As the youngsters behind him in the rotation - Reynaldo López, Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodón - come into the 2020 season searching for consistency, Keuchel brings it every fifth day. The White Sox fortunes this season perhaps hinge on whether López, Cease and Rodón can make the rotation a force to be reckoned with. The White Sox don't have to wonder about the reliable Keuchel.
Again, that sounds like someone White Sox fans remember well. In style and performance, Keuchel - who expressed an affinity for sub-three-hour games - could end up a second coming of Buehrle.
"The age-old tale of baseball is how well you can pitch," Keuchel said. "And not a lot of guys can pitch anymore, so that's why you're adding on 30 minutes to the game instead of subtracting 30 minutes from the average timeframe.
"I just keep it simple. I draw on knowledge from some of the older guys before me, and the fact that they were able to pitch and locate will never end in baseball. It's just the oohs and aahs of spin rate and velocity is out of control right now, which makes me more comfortable in my position than I've ever been before.
"I know that kids who possess quality of pitching are looking to me, as well. So I can't be afraid to do something that I want to pass on to the next generation of player. I know Greg Maddux said he was afraid of getting hit all the time, and he turned out well. But ‘afraid' is something that doesn't really bode well with me."
Keuchel's already built quite a resume in his big league career. He's got a Cy Young Award, a closet full of Gold Gloves and a World Series ring from his days with the Houston Astros. But though he might be a "dying breed," at 32 years old, he's not going anywhere any time soon. He inked a three-year free-agent deal with the White Sox over the winter that, with an option, could keep him on the South Side through the 2023 season.
He's intent on adding to that resume and adding to his jewelry collection. And much like the rest of these White Sox, he thinks this year's team has a chance to do something big.
"This team is uber talented, and it's been on display the first two games of the year," Keuchel said. "It's going to be entertaining every day. And that's what you want as a professional, you want to come to the ballpark, know that you have a great chance of winning every day."
At the very least, the White Sox chances are looking very good every time Keuchel takes the hill.
Why Dallas Keuchel could give White Sox the second coming of Mark Buehrle originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago