Crochet to join mix for White Sox rotation

Left-hander has 2.71 ERA in 72 career appearances -- all in relief

February 14th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- An early offseason conversation between White Sox left-hander and general manager Chris Getz ultimately finished with Crochet following a starting pitcher’s path in 2024.

And the 24-year-old Crochet has thoroughly bought into the process and preparation. In reality, starting always lingered in his mind even when he was posting a 2.71 ERA over 72 relief appearances covering parts of three seasons from 2020-23.

“I’m ecstatic,” Crochet said outside the White Sox clubhouse at Camelback Ranch, one day before the report date for pitchers and catchers. “It’s not like I expect to be given anything. I just want a chance to fight for a spot and earn it at the end of Spring Training.

“I was able to get down to do a little bit of a mechanical overhaul this offseason. Nothing crazy -- just kind of making sure the [velocity] isn’t as forced as it maybe was when I came back from Tommy John [surgery]. That was a big thing in the recovery for me was kind of learning to throw hard often again without putting too much strain on my body, along with developing the changeup further.”

According to Baseball Savant, Crochet has previously relied heavily on the four-seam fastball (thrown 846 times) and the slider (thrown 350 times) as a reliever, with the changeup mixed in (96 times). Crochet admitted to changing his repertoire a little bit this offseason, but he declined to elaborate -- adding with a broad smile how he’ll leave it to the media to figure it out and see if it works when unveiled during Cactus League action.

Of course, the media’s opinion will mean nothing as far as where Crochet starts the 2024 season. He could open with Triple-A Charlotte or Double-A Birmingham to build up innings. After all, he has only 73 innings -- all in relief -- on his big league resume and he hasn't started since making 13 starts collegiately for Tennessee (six in 2018, six in '19 and one in '20 covering 3 1/3 scoreless innings). Crochet has topped out at 46 pitches in a single Major League outing and he has thrown three innings just once (April 25, 2021).

Crochet could also begin the season out of the White Sox bullpen, being called upon to throw extended innings. There’s also a chance for Crochet to be part of Chicago's starting rotation upon breaking camp. Dylan Cease, Erick Fedde, Michael Kopech, Michael Soroka and Chris Flexen seem to have the rotation advantage, but manager Pedro Grifol spoke Tuesday of stretching out 14 starters, with a great deal of open competition ahead.

Getz has mentioned in broad strokes talks with Brian Bannister, the White Sox senior advisor to pitching, about how they will use their hurlers. It could mean openers or even a six-man rotation in a deviation from the norm.

“Right now, we’re thinking five, but we’ll see how Spring Training progresses,” Grifol said. “I am 100% open to anything that helps us win baseball games."

“We want to appropriately attack this starter’s plan, so to speak, how he’ll be deployed,” Getz said. “It will be one inning and two innings and three innings, and we’ll kind of go from there.”

Spring Training is different in that Crochet can start Cactus League games or be used in backfield B games to build those innings.

“More than anything, it’s keeping him healthy,” Getz said. “Then, stretching him out appropriately and deploying him how we see fit, both for Garrett and for the organization.”

“Starting is definitely No. 1 for me,” Crochet said. “It’s up to the front office to decide what’s the best path to kind of execute the plan, but I’m open to anything that’s helping the big league club.”

The pandemic-shortened 2020 season allowed Crochet to make a high-octane bullpen debut shortly after being selected 11th overall in the '20 MLB Draft. Following his recovery from Tommy John surgery, which cost him the ‘22 season and all but 12 2/3 innings in 2023 (25 total, including Minor League rehab work), Crochet is ready to follow the Chris Sale path of reliever-to-starter and fulfill his mound dream -- even if it’s a slower build.

“Once it starts to progress, I expect for it to pick up a little bit more steam,” Crochet said. “With not having done it in so long, who knows what’s to come. It’s just kind of on me in that scenario to be honest about how I’m feeling and my recovery. Just put the team in the best case when spring breaks.

“Back in 2021, there were a lot of times when I went out there just for one inning and I felt like I had some more in me. I feel like it’s the most value I can bring to the team. That’s kind of the prized pony of Major League Baseball. Everybody wants to be able to start -- not everyone can do it. I have a lot of self-belief I can do it, so I wanted a chance to prove that.”