In the first part of our interview with Yankees pitching prospect Brian Keller, he discussed the positive aspects of his college coaching staff, a key adjustment the Yankees advised him to make, and his no-hitter from 2019 with Double-A Trenton. You can read that here. Below he discusses his communication with the Yankees this summer, and following past teammates and opponents through the season and playoffs.
Dan Kelly: Along the way you’ve been playing with a few guys who ended up on the Yankees’ 60-man roster. You and Nick Nelson were promoted to Triple-A at pretty much the same time last year, also you’ve played with a few others. When the 60-man roster was being announced, had the Yankees already communicated with you and what was the messaging they they gave you?
Brian Keller: Pretty much they had told me all through the spring and summer just to stay ready. They kind of said I was probably the next pitcher up if something were to happen. I mean, I was a little disappointed I didn’t get an opportunity, but, yeah, I just stayed ready and, if they had called, I would’ve been ready. But unfortunately didn’t happen.
DK: How closely have you been following the playoffs because quite a few players that you’ve faced, guys like Luis Robert and Bo Bichette, were there this year? Have you been following the players you faced over the last couple of years during the postseason?
BK: Yeah I got to watch a lot more baseball than I normally do this summer, and I got to see a lot of guys that I’ve played with and played against in the major leagues. It is super exciting to see them. I wish it was me out there with them, but it’s so cool to see guys that I’ve played with and against all through the minor leagues getting their opportunity. That’s what it’s all about.
DK: Do you keep in touch with the former teammates like Clint Frazier or Kyle Higashioka that are up there with the major-league team as the season is going on?
BK: Every once in awhile I’ll talk to some of those guys. A guy that I trained with Ben Heller, I train with him in the offseason so he was up and down all year, so I talked to him quite a bit. Michael King was my roommate this spring; he was up all year, so yeah it’s cool to talk to those guys about their experiences and how it’s going and stuff.
DK: You’ve been to the major-league camp two or three years now for spring training. What was it like the first time you got the call over from the minor-league complex to work with the big-league team?
BK: So, it was 2018. It was my second spring training, and I got called down early to go to what they used to call Captain’s Camp, and that was kind of a group of prospects, not that I was ever really a prospect. I was invited to this Captain’s Camp, and so I was there all through January, and then the night before major-league camp started. I got a call from the pitching coordinator to pack your stuff up at Himes (the Yankees’ minor-league facility) and head over to Steinbrenner in the morning. That was crazy to me. I was not expecting that at all—really cool experience.
DK: Yeah, it must be. Now that you’ve done it a couple of times, is there a pitcher on the staff or a coach that you look to, or seek out for the extra guidance you are spending time there?
BK: Actually, I was only there that one year in 2018, but this past year, I went over there a few times. I only pitched there once in the short spring training it was, but oh yeah, I mean I I’m getting getting to know a lot more guys, talking to more people, and I don’t know, it’s just a fun experience.
DK: Definitely seems like it. So this spring, when everything got shut down, did you immediately head back to Wisconsin or were you there in Florida for a while as things were shaking out?
BK: Yeah, so once we got word that camp was shut down with the Yankees, since we had a few positive tests in the organization, we were told to stay in Tampa for the month just to make sure we were quarantined and healthy. I believe it was April 1st, my wife and I drove back to Wisconsin, and yeah, been here ever since.
DK: How is your training been going? Do you have a you have a good facility to go to or is it, you know, just making do with what you have?
BK: I’ve had a facility to whole time, while everything was shut down a few of us guys were back in town. We were able to stay in shape and work out and throw our bullpens and stuff like that, so yeah, I think it’s working out now. But a lot of guys were stuck with nothing for a long time.
DK: How do you feel heading into the into the winter season? Do you feel like you you’re in better shape than you’ve ever been, or or are there any concerns in the back your mind as you move towards the spring?
BK: I mean, I’ve been home for all this time. I’ve been able to train this full time; most this summer was spent kind of maintaining, staying ready, making sure just in case they do call—I would be ready to go pitch for them.