Crochet embraces life as starter, not opener, in 2024

March 27th, 2024

CHICAGO -- is a starting pitcher.

He’s not an opener looking to cover a few innings and then hand it over to the bullpen. Crochet is at the top of this White Sox rotation as his first career start becomes his first Opening Day start on Thursday against the Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field.

This job is the one the 24-year-old wanted. This job is where Crochet feels he belongs.

“In my mind, things are returning back to normal,” Crochet said during Wednesday’s workout. “This is how I have always viewed myself. Go out and pitch and play like it’s just another day.”

“We know he’s capable of being a frontline-type starter. But that’s something that is earned,” said White Sox general manager Chris Getz, when asked if Crochet was the team’s No. 1 starter. “Does he have the stuff to do that? He does. But there’s more to it than just the label or the hope. He’s going to get the opportunity to show baseball what he’s capable of doing as a starting pitcher.”

This journey to Opening Day began with a much-talked-about offseason conversation between Crochet and Getz that Getz referred to Monday as a “really healthy dialogue.” The two spoke throughout the year, with Getz watching Crochet’s growth and battle to return from Tommy John surgery as the White Sox assistant general manager/player development. In this particular talk, Getz asked which direction Crochet wanted to go at this stage of his career.

At that point, Crochet had pitched a combined 73 innings in 72 games over three seasons, all in relief.

“And it was very clear that he wanted to see if he could be a starter,” Getz said. “I said, ‘Listen, let’s treat this offseason, and let’s prepare for you to be a starting pitcher. And if we have to adjust, we’ll adjust.’ It’s much easier to transition to the bullpen than go from the bullpen to being a starter in-season.

“Physically, he’s in a good place. He’s stronger than he’s ever been. He’s recovered well. He’s shown the ability to navigate games. So, we’ll just continue to push forward.”

Crochet credited PUSH Performance in Tempe, Ariz., where he worked with teammates Erick Fedde and Steven Wilson to prepare for the starting opportunity. Crochet also praised Next Era physical therapy in Tempe and mentioned how seamless the transition was to move what he did in the offseason to the White Sox.

Some scouts listed Crochet as the most dominant pitcher in the Cactus League over his 12 2/3 innings, during which he recorded 14 strikeouts and one walk. His fastball topped out at 100 mph, he worked a cutter into his repertoire and still featured that biting slider.

On Thursday at 3:10 p.m. CT, in front of approximately 15 family members, Crochet will throw his first regular-season pitch as a starter since March 7, 2020, when he struck out six in 3 1/3 scoreless innings for Tennessee against Wright State. Crochet's pitch count was up to 80 in his last start, March 21 against the Royals, and he bristled at the "opener" idea when it came up Wednesday.

“I don’t really view it that way. It’s not really something I’ve put a lot of thought into,” he said. “Just going one [game] at a time, but I intend to pitch how I’ve always pitched.”

There’s a “general framework” in mind for the White Sox and their overall usage of Crochet, who has never pitched more than 54 1/3 innings in a single season (2021). But the plan is to let Crochet pitch, whether that’s four, five or six innings on Thursday, then bring him back on Tuesday on regular rest and not use Nick Nastrini as a fifth starter until Wednesday.

“I just want [Crochet] to relax, enjoy the moment. It's Opening Day,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “Just take it all in. He did a phenomenal job in preparing himself for this moment. He had envisioned this. He wanted to start. He had dreams of being a Major League starter, and he had the will and the drive to put himself in this position.

“What we'll look for is consistency, from start to start. What we look for tomorrow is slow down, pound the strike zone and just be you. You're plenty talented."