Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Former Razorbacks part of MLB postseason
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel works in the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/)
FAYETTEVILLE Four former Razorbacks - three pitchers and one coach - could be part of the MLB divisional series that begin today.
Former Arkansas pitchers Dallas Keuchel (Atlanta Braves), Jalen Beeks (Tampa Bay Rays) and Colin Poche (Rays) are on rosters for postseason teams. Also in the postseason is Wes Johnson, who left the Razorbacks to become pitching coach for the Minnesota Twins last November.
Keuchel is scheduled to start for the Braves in their NLDS opener against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday at 4 p.m. Keuchel, who signed with the Braves after the start of the season, is 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA this year - his first since leaving the Houston Astros, the team that drafted him and with which he won a Cy Young Award in 2015 and World Series in 2017.
“It’s why we got him. He brought instant credibility," Braves manager Brian Snitker told The Athletic. "He’s been through this war. He’s a World Series champion. And I think when we signed him, we envisioned him making this opening start.”
The Rays advanced with a 5-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday in the AL wild-card round. Tampa Bay will play the Houston Astros in the ALDS beginning Friday.
Poche (5-5, 4.70) was part of the Rays' 25-man roster for that game and warmed up during the late innings, but never entered. Beeks (6-3, 4.31) was not on the roster for the wild-card game as Tampa Bay loaded up on right-handed pitchers to counter a right-handed A's lineup. It is not clear whether Beeks will participate in the ALDS.
Unlike Keuchel and Beeks, who spent their entire college careers at Arkansas, Poche transferred from the Razorbacks following Tommy John surgery in 2015. Poche finished his college career at Dallas Baptist, working for a brief time with Johnson, who left to become Mississippi State's pitching coach before Poche's first season after the surgery.
“I have to give Colin credit because he’s 100 percent self-made,’’ Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder told the Tampa Bay Times last week. “He would not be here if it wasn’t for his own curiosity and what he’s done to apply himself with his understanding of a lot of the modern initiatives in pitching.’’
The Twins begin their ALDS series against the New York Yankees on Friday. Johnson's pitching staff has been one of the best and most improved in baseball this season, helping Minnesota to 101 wins.
“He did his homework on all of us, especially this offseason," Twins pitcher Tyler Duffey told The Associated Press. "He came at us with a plan and a reason and stats to prove it and basically made it really easy to get behind."
Two former Arkansas pitchers, Blake Parker (Twins) and Ryne Stanek (Rays), began the season on playoff teams but were traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins, respectively.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.