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The Ever-Elusive Ace: Mitch Keller Changing His Game

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Looking at the Pirates’ potential 2022 starters, there seem to be a lot of question marks. Some guys are more suited for bullpen roles, others are potential deadline deals, and others have a lot to prove before faith can be instilled in their game. One of the pitchers who fall in the latter category is Mitch Keller.

With the ‘22 season in question and the lockout continuing, guys like Keller are stuck on an island with no form of communication with the Pirates or any of the staff. With that in mind, there are several ways players can continue to train and retool. One way is going to outside facilities.

It is because of these outside facilities why we’re here today talking about Keller and his game as a whole.

Monday afternoon, Mitch Keller released a video of himself pitching a bullpen session. After watching it, questions immediately sprang up. Something seemed different with the way Keller was throwing, so we reached out to the instructor for clarification.

What was Keller doing differently?

“[We’ve] been stretching [Keller’s] arm out a tad more, instead of shortening it, along with getting his [velocity] back up,” said Keller’s instructor.

When you take a look at previous starts from Keller, you can see that his arm wasn’t as stretched out, along with a ton of pitching from the stretch. This pitching from the stretch got the gears turning on potential control issues, which, of course, led to the control question.

“[Keller’s] control has been great thus far! It was difficult last year to get a rhythm for him with a shortened arm path and making him throw strictly from the stretch. In my opinion there was a tad too much tinkering with [him],” Keller’s instructor said Monday afternoon.

Keller’s instructor wanted to stress that he is no longer working from just the stretch and is continuing to look good day in and day out. Obviously, working in a controlled environment like a facility is different than live games, but we may have some hope for Keller yet.

The Pirates would be wise to continue giving Keller the benefit of the doubt—until the wheels fall off. With a pitching coach like Marin and an evolving staff, Keller will have all the opportunities to prove that he is worthy of that ever-elusive “ace” status for the Pirates.

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