D-backs pitching coach: Keuchel still has ‘some work to do;’ Weaver to start Saturday

Jun 15, 2022, 6:51 AM | Updated: 2:54 pm

Starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel #60 (L) of the Houston Astros listens to pitching coach Brent Strom...

Starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel #60 (L) of the Houston Astros listens to pitching coach Brent Strom #53 after being relieved in the eighth inning on a single by Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks are in search of a reliable arm at the backend of their rotation.

That hasn’t been a secret since the start of the season, with Caleb Smith beginning the year as the D-backs’ No. 5 starter before Humberto Castellanos took over prior to his injury that has him on the 60-day injured list.

And following the signing of Dallas Keuchel and the return of Luke Weaver off the IL, the last spot in the starting rotation once again seems to be up for grabs.

D-backs pitching coach Brent Strom on Tuesday announced Weaver as Saturday’s starter against the Minnesota Twins, while Strom will get a closer look at the lefty Keuchel later this week.

“I still think we have some work to do in terms of getting the arm strength and the fastball back to where I was hoping it would become,” the pitching coach said of Keuchel. “So I’m going to see him on Thursday during our off day.

“We’re going to do a throwing session out at Salt River and he’s going in daily to get his workouts in up at the complex and everything so I’ll have a better read on it on Thursday.”

Strom said Keuchel’s most recent start at Salt River Fields went “fairly well,” adding that the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner went five or so innings on 80-plus pitches. However, Keuchel did struggle with the heat after not pitching for 14 days.

The duo spent five years together from 2014-18 as members of the Houston Astros en route to a World Series ring (2017), two All-Star appearances (2015, 2017) and four Gold Gloves (2014-16, 2018).

“I saw a lot of strikes, his sinker was very good according to the TrackMan data that we got,” Strom said. “The thing that I need to get back with him is elevating the fastball for example — things that we had done over in Houston that he had kind of gotten away from for whatever reason.”

Strom has been around the game of baseball long enough to know that pitchers are human beings and that their bodies will change as they get older. Keuchel was 24 years old when he first started working with Strom when they were members of the Astros.

But after three seasons apart, Strom is hopeful the Diamondbacks can get the 34-year-old lefty to tap into the stuff that once made him one of the game’s best pitchers.

“The body changes, the mood and patterns sometimes reflect that body change or the different way you go about things,” the pitching coach explained. “I think we need to get him back to where he was or at least as close as possible because this is an ultimate competitor and really was the guy as I’ve mentioned earlier that kind of led us out of the wilderness so to speak in Houston.”

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