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Astros pitchers, catchers open camp; Keuchel healthy & ready for 2017

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The sights and sounds of baseball are back in Florida, as the Houston Astros have officially opened spring training at their new home in West Palm Beach.

While final work continues on their new digs at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the work on the field has started, as pitchers and catchers began their workouts on a sunny and mild morning.

The new facility is state of the art, and the players who have arrived over the course of the past two days are impressed. 

"It's really amazing," pitcher Mike Fiers said. "There are a lot of televisions around, that's for sure. The fields are awesome, and the covered bullpens are really cool to see. This place is big, too. This organization is moving in a big direction, and I'm happy to be part of it."

The Astros' new complex is not all their own, as they will share the property and complex with the Washington Nationals, who occupy their own side of the facility. Sharing a spring training site also will cut down on travel during the game portion of camp. Five teams train within a 45-minute drive of West Palm Beach.

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2015 American League Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel is back and healthy again after being forced to shut it down towards the back end of the 2016 season due to injuries.

"I feel like a brand new guy," said Keuchel. "I don't ever want to miss time and that killed me to just watch the final month unfold. It was like I was a cheerleader. Hard to watch and not contribute in any way possible."

Keuchel said he focused on taking care of his body better in the offseason and moving forward. He's already thrown five bullpen sessions in Houston and West Palm Beach. He is scheduled to throw again on Thursday.

"I've thrown five, so I am right on pace," said Keuchel. "I will be throwing the breaking ball next week a little more, but I feel good. And I'll also add in more long toss and keep building up my stamina. I'll stick with the fastball, curve and change-up in the first week or two.

Keuchel was also asked what he learned from the 2016 season, where he finished 9-12 in his 26 starts, while being limited to 168 innings.

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"I learned that I sucked," Keuchel said with a smile on his face. "From spring training, it wasn't right. I told myself I'd push through it, and that wasn't the case. I hurt the team more than I helped. I learned that it's OK to tell people if you are not feeling right. That was one of the big keys I learned at the age of 28.

Keuchel is also very high on the 2017 Astros chances with a team that has added new offensive pieces to the lineup.

"It's something I embrace every year. We have to go through the Rangers, because we haven't had much success against them. If we come out of the gate not as slow as last year, we have as good a shot as anyone in the American League. Those were long and distant memory of 2012 and 2013 expectations, which was the cellar. Anything beats the cellar," said Keuchel.

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