Going Pro

FAYETTEVILLE — Dallas Keuchel admitted he considered returning to Arkansas for his senior season, but the idea of starting his professional baseball career was too good to turn down.

Keuchel said Sunday that he signed a contract late last week with the Houston Astros, who selected the former Arkansas pitcher in the seventh round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

The junior admitted that at the beginning of the year he was leaning toward leaving Arkansas if he got drafted. But, as the Razorbacks made their unlikely run through the postseason and into the College World Series, his decision became tougher.

"When we made that postseason run, it was like, 'Well, we have a lot of pieces coming back and we can make another run at this thing next year,'" Keuchel said. "After the World Series, I thought about it and weighed my options a little bit.

"But I felt it was best just to go out and get (my pro career) started this year."

Keuchel's decision to sign with the Astros came as no surprise. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said last week during his postseason news conference that he didn't expect his ace pitcher to return in 2010.

Keuchel declined to say how much his signing bonus was worth, adding only that Houston gave him "a good deal" that matched the amount he had been hoping for.

He acknowledged that his heroics in the College World Series — in which he won two games and came out of the bullpen — earned him some more money from the Astros.

"They threw out a good offer that I had in mind before the season. That was my dollar amount that I was going to go if I got, and I got it," Keuchel said. "So I'm happy with it."

Keuchel is scheduled to leave his hometown of Tulsa today and travel to Troy, N.Y., where he'll join the Tri-City Valley Cats of the New York-Penn League.

The left-hander is expected to come out of the bullpen in his first few appearances with the Valley Cats before moving into their starting rotation in a couple of weeks.

Keuchel went 9-3 this past season to finish his three years at Arkansas with 19 wins and a 4.56 ERA.

"Houston is a good organization to go to with good young talent, and I have a chance to move up quick," Keuchel said. "That's what I was asking for, and it worked out good."

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