Boston bets on righty from Sale's alma mater

Red Sox ace's success gave Round 16 pick confidence in transfer choice

June 14th, 2017
Kutter Crawford was the sixth right-hander the Red Sox selected in the 2017 MLB Draft. (MLB)

BOSTON -- About six months ago, Kutter Crawford decided he should finally start trying to throw the pitch that sounds just like his first name, even if it's spelled differently.

Helped by having that new pitch in his arsenal, the right-hander displayed such dominance in his first year at Florida Gulf Coast University that he was drafted by the Red Sox in the 16th round of the MLB Draft (491st overall) on Wednesday.

A junior transfer to FGCU following two years at Indian River State College, the Okeechobee, Fla., native would have been thrilled to hear his name selected by any team. But the fact that it was the Red Sox took on added meaning, both to Crawford and FGCU.

:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::

Red Sox ace Chris Sale is the biggest baseball success story to come from FGCU, and he has kept close ties to his alma mater both literally and figuratively. Sale, who was the 13th overall pick in the 2010 Draft, lives 20 minutes or so from the FGCU campus in the offseason, and the Red Sox also train in Fort Myers, just minutes away from the campus.

Sale spent time with Crawford and many other FGCU players this past Spring Training.

"When you first meet him, you wouldn't think he was this five-time All-Star, because he's a very humble, down to earth kind of guy," said Crawford. "He's easy to have a conversation with. He's there, he'll talk to you. You ask him a question, he's nice enough and professional enough to answer your question. Being around him, it's awesome."

Now, about that cutter.

"I actually did develop one over Christmas break," said Crawford. "A bunch of people asked me if I did throw one when I got there in the fall, so I was like, 'I'm going to try to throw one.' I ended up working on it. It actually became one of my better pitches."

As the regular Friday night pitcher for FGCU this season, Crawford went 7-1 with a 1.71 ERA and had 99 strikeouts in 84 innings.

"He was the main reason we won 43 games," said FGCU head coach Dave Tollett, who was also Sale's coach at the school. "To have an ERA under 2 at the Division 1 level shows that he can really pitch. He's a five-pitch mix guy, he has command of all five. He has two for-sure out pitches, a really heavy fastball, and he throws the cutter, which is kind of funny -- the cutter is definitely one of his out pitches."

It's unclear if Crawford was actually named after the pitch, but the K at the front of his name almost definitely is baseball-related.

"I'm not entirely too sure," Crawford said. "I asked my parents about it, and they're big baseball fans and they grew up in baseball and have always enjoyed baseball. I think my dad kind of thought if it, so I'm not sure if he decided to name me after the pitch or what, and ended up with that, and I think it's a pretty cool baseball name."

Crawford's older brother, Jonathon, was a Florida Gator and a first-round selection by the Tigers in 2013. Jonathon currently pitches in the Reds' farm system.

"He's been a big help over the years if I have any questions about pitching," said Crawford. "Or if I have a bad outing, I can just talk to him and he can give me words of wisdom that you're not going to have your best stuff every night."

And before long, Crawford might even have Sale's number in his cellphone.

"He's been a huge help to our program," Crawford said of Sale. "He just tells that you have to have a lot of confidence, and when you're on the mound, you can't think anybody is better than you. When I first got recruited there, I was like, 'I like this school, but can I get noticed there?' Then I see Chris Sale went there and how much success he's having in the big leagues, it was definitely a motivating factor that I can go to FGCU and still get drafted and still have the potential to play in the big leagues."