Could Crochet return to bullpen in '21?

November 6th, 2020

CHICAGO -- Would the White Sox presently look different if had been able to stay in Game 3 of the American League Wild Card Series in Oakland?

Crochet, the team’s top pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, was set up to work two, maybe even three innings in the deciding contest after not pitching in either of the first two games, allowing the White Sox to align their best relievers for the last four or five innings. The 21-year-old rookie struck out Matt Olson in relief of starter Dane Dunning in the first inning, stranding runners on first and third, and fanned Khris Davis to open the second.

A slight but noticeable drop in velocity led then-manager Rick Renteria to pull Crochet after Davis, and the White Sox were not able to hold a 3-0 advantage they possessed through three innings. Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper parted ways with the organization 10 days after that 6-4 season-ending loss to the A’s.

In his first comments since that playoff loss, Crochet spoke to about feeling soreness even before the left forearm tightness arose in Game 3. He still wanted to push through, including that final appearance of 2020.

“I was kind of sore just like leading up to the game,” Crochet said. “I felt like I just hadn’t been recovering well because I felt like I was thrown into the mix pretty quick and tried not to really speak out of turn. I didn’t want to feel like they were going to have somebody else do my job. So that was a little selfish on my part, not really speaking up a little bit more.

“It was kind of a quick trigger. As soon as they got out there, it was already known I was coming out of the game. There really wasn’t anything I could have said to stay in. I like to think I could have but after the diagnosis, I’m glad that I didn’t. They definitely made the right call doing what they did.”

A left flexor strain was the official diagnosis for Crochet, but there was no damage to his ulnar collateral ligament. He feels discomfort-free after taking time off and underwent tests this past week at Camelback Ranch to set up an offseason throwing program. Crochet has moved to Arizona for the offseason, just minutes away from the White Sox facility, believing it’s an easier process to go through his workouts there during the recovery.

This 2020 season was a whirlwind experience for Crochet, although not overwhelming. He smoothly moved from throwing just 3 1/3 innings for Tennessee to being selected 11th overall by the White Sox to joining the team in Schaumburg, Ill., at their alternate training site.

His big league debut came on Sept. 18 in Cincinnati, where Crochet struck out two over one scoreless inning. That appearance earned him plaudits from Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez the next day.

“He told me I was throwing hard and [to] keep working hard and keep doing what I was doing, and I would be here for a long time,” Crochet said. “That kind of stuck with me.

“I’ve never really been complimented by a member of the opposing team, so it was new for me. It was nice to know that a big leaguer like him would take notice.”

At Schaumburg, Crochet talked about working on the visual effect of his fastball, trying to get it where it was more of a true backspin and get a little more vertical ride action so he could pitch more up in the zone. Crochet added that his spin rate already showed he would be able to, but he was kind of tweaking some little things mechanics-wise.

Not only did Crochet throw six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in his abbreviated debut, but his 45 pitches thrown at 100+ mph ranked second in the Majors behind 47 for Brusdar Graterol. Crochet will be focused on improved fastball command to pair with his velocity jump and better usage of his changeup to give him a third pitch.

He’s viewed by the organization as a starter but could work in big league relief again in 2021.

“Experience is experience, whether it’s starting or relieving,” Crochet said. “The main thing I need to do is just to gain experience, and being around the big league club has its benefits.

“But if they were to send me to start in the Minors, that also has its benefits. I just really want to gain experience this upcoming year.”