“We have a chance to be really special this year,” Keuchel said.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dallas Keuchel pitched for the 2017 World Series champion Astros and four other teams that reached the postseason, so to say the White Sox pitching staff could be the best one he’s been on is saying something.
“I’ve been fortunate to play for a few really, really good staffs and it’s truly special to watch four other great starters and special pieces pitching from the bullpen every day,” Keuchel said after making his final tuneup for the regular season with five innings of two-run ball Sunday in a 7-4 Cactus League win over the Diamondbacks.
“I told the group we have a chance to be really special this year, this is probably my most talented group.”
Lucas Giolito, Keuchel, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon comprise the starting rotation. The bullpen including Liam Hendriks, Evan Marshall, Aaron Bummer, Codi Heuer, Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet and Matt Foster is loaded with power arms.
“Just the bullpen itself, there is no real question mark. We’ve got dudes, we’ve got guns from the fifth inning on, if somebody comes in from the fifth inning on to bridge that thing, you’ve got 95 [mph] plus. Not a lot of teams have that ability.”
Keuchel, the AL Cy Young winner in 2015 but the softest tosser on the staff, gave up two runs on five hits and no walks while striking out four.
“I touched on everything I wanted to do today,” Keuchel said. “My body feels like I pitched a full game. I’m ready. I’m excited.”
Final roster spots
The injuries to Eloy Jimenez and Adam Engel might have given an Opening Day roster spot to Billy Hamilton and made it easier to include both Jonathan Lucroy and Zack Collins as backup catchers, the latter two being available for designated hitter duty if Andrew Vaughn plays left field.
The Opening Day roster will likely be set Monday, an off day, or Tuesday, when the final spring game is played against the Rockies.
“With the staff, you start talking scenarios, who’s the [Angels] opening day pitcher, what would your lineup be,” La Russa said. “Need an outfielder, or an infielder, an offensive player, defensive player, you try to build on scenarios that you start rating guys with their versatility, boxes gotta be checked.”
La Russa wasn’t ruling out outfielder Nick Williams, who has competed for a spot this spring. Danny Mendick figues to be the extra infielder, although Leury Garcia can play all infield positions, too.
With the bigger outfield expanses to cover at Angel Stadium and Seattle, Garcia or Hamilton, both much swifter than Vaughn, might be sound options defensively. Garcia missed the last two days because of a sore shoulder but it bothered him more hitting than throwing and he should be fine.
“I think he took too many swings,” La Russa said. “I watched him when he took batting practice, hitting the ball all over the field, I think we’re fine with that.”
This and that
On the off day Monday, Lynn will throw 90-95 pitches in a simulated setting. Carlos Rodon’s day is Wednesday, when the team travels to Anaheim, and he’ll stay back with a catcher for a similar workday, La Russa said, before driving together to join the team.
*The Sox (12-11-5) are 11-3-2 in their last 16 spring games.