Everything in Brad Keller’s mind was racing a million miles a minute with his team at the plate and a big lead in hand against the Pittsburgh Pirates last Sunday.
The Kansas City Royals’ right-hanaded starting pitcher from Flowery Branch made it through the first eight innings without giving up a run. However, there was question in Keller’s head if he would get the opportunity to pitch into the ninth inning for the first time in his three-year big league career.
So, he saddled up in the dugout beside Royals manager Mike Matheny to see what the verdict was from the man in charge.
“Matheny sat down and said, ‘how bad do you want this?’” Keller said. “I said ‘pretty bad’.
Even though going to the bullpen for the final three outs was a possibility, Matheny gave Keller a short leash to get the final three outs.
“He (Matheny) said ‘you better make it quick.’”
That’s all the Flowery Branch graduate needed.
Keller powered through the ninth inning for the five-hit, complete game shutout against Pittsburgh.
In the process, Keller said it was one of the highlights so far in his professional career with Kansas City. Originally drafted in 2013 in the eighth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Keller said it ranks only behind the thrill of getting to pitch in 2019 in front of a bevy of friends and family near where he grew up in South Hall against the Atlanta Braves.
Now past the midway point of the shortened 60-game season, Keller stands at 4-3 with a 2.77 ERA for Kansas City. In 2020, Keller had thrown 48 2/3 innings and allowed just 35 hits and 15 earned runs.
He’s in line to potentially have the best season of his career. In 2018, Keller finished 9-6, before going 7-14 last season with a respectable 4.19 ERA.
Keller has experienced plenty of highlights, at the young age of 25.
He doesn’t let the good times inflate his ego or let the setbacks hamper his confidence to take the mound.
“Baseball is a game of failure and you’re not going to be successful all the time,” Keller said Monday. “You just have to keep grinding.”
The 6-foot-5 inch, 250-pound pitcher for the Royals said there is a lot of overlap between baseball and his other favorite pasttime: golf.
During his free time, Keller said he makes the rounds as he tries to improve his game on the golf course. However, over years, he’s learned it’s a game where one bad tee shot, errant approach from the fairway of misread putt can take the joy out of playing a round of 18 holes.
His swing is so powerful, that the muscular Keller admits to breaking his fare share of clubs by hitting the ground with the head of his driver or club or choice off of the tee.
“One day, I was walking off the green and I said to my buddies, ‘why do I pick the two hardest sports to play?” Keller said with a laugh.
However, he’s also had some crowning achievements on the golf course. His best round, Keller said, was a 76 on the scorecard at Ozarks National, a course in southwestern Missouri designed by two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw.
“I made every putt that day,” he said.
When Keller comes home, he’s a regular at Reunion Golf Club, in Hoschton, or Buford’s Legacy Golf Club of Lanier Islands.
He’s even had the privilege of playing at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth.
Keller commented that his average round in about 85, which is still quite good for an amateur golfer.
Still, Keller isn’t going to put the same expectations on golf as he does when he toes the rubber for the Royals.
Every five days, he’s called on to give Kansas City the best chance to win.
He expects to keep it that way.