'It's a long season': Crochet balancing workload, competitiveness

April 30th, 2024

CHICAGO -- wanted to work more than five innings and throw more than 77 pitches for the White Sox during a 3-2 loss to the Twins on Monday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Ultimately, it was the decision of manager Pedro Grifol and pitching coach Ethan Katz to remove the southpaw in favor of veteran Brad Keller at that point, with dugout conversations between Crochet and Katz caught on the game’s broadcast. The exchange was a symbol of balancing Crochet’s unwavering competitiveness and positive physical feelings through seven starts (34 2/3 innings) against keeping him healthy and in play for a full season in his first year as a starter.

“I was frustrated just because of the road trip we just went on, I took part in wearing out the bullpen a good bit,” Crochet said. “I felt like this was a good chance for me to save them. I had the long second [inning], but I was able to be efficient after that.

“That was kind of going on in my mind: ‘It’s time I do my part and get through six.’ I just really wanted to. I feel like they are looking out for my best interest. That was kind of Ethan and Pedro’s side. It’s a long season, so let’s make sure we make every start we can.”

Crochet retired 15 of the 18 batters he faced on Monday, striking out seven to give him 47 punchouts on the year. The southpaw walked Manuel Margot with one out in the second, which was followed by Carlos Santana’s home run erasing a 2-0 deficit on a slider down and in.

After that connection, Crochet admitted to changing his mound demeanor to become a bit more aggressive. He felt as if he was working on “autopilot” from that point moving forward.

“I’ve been trying to be an even keel guy, but I think internally I was riding that line a little bit too much,” Crochet said. “There are times you have to pitch angry. I had talked about it in K.C. and after the homer happened, it really locked me back in.

“Just my past couple of outings, I felt like I wasn’t hard enough on myself to be honest. I was giving myself the benefit of the doubt. There were executed pitches I got burned on, but I just gotta be better as a whole. That’s what happened in the first and second inning.”

The White Sox jumped that to 2-0 advantage in the first inning, starting with three straight hits against Minnesota starter Joe Ryan. The second run scored on an Eloy Jiménez double play, with the White Sox (6-23) missing out on a chance to score a few more.

Scoring chances came in the eighth, when Jiménez struck out with runners on first and second, and ninth after Minnesota claimed a 3-2 lead on Byron Buxton’s double and Max Kepler’s single off John Brebbia in the top of the frame. But Korey Lee struck out on a 73 mph curveball from Caleb Thielbar, stranding runners on first and third on the slowest game-ending strikeout pitch in the Majors since Bowden Francis (72.9 mph) on Aug. 20, 2023.

Minnesota (15-13) won for an eighth straight time, with five of those wins coming against the White Sox. The White Sox also fell to 2-16 against the American League Central, and 1-12 against the Twins dating back to May 4, 2023.

A strong start for Crochet was the key factor for the White Sox on Monday, as he allowed five runs on seven hits over four innings in a loss at the Twins during his last time out on April 24, and seven runs on five hits in three innings against the Phillies on April 19. Crochet would have liked to pitch longer, but as Grifol has said many times, these are unchartered waters being navigated in regard to Crochet’s move from the bullpen.

“He’s doing a really good job of pitching. Everybody knows he’s got incredible stuff, elite stuff,” Grifol said. “But the one thing that’s been impressive is his ability to mix in four pitches, throw strikes, not walk guys, get strikeouts when he needs them. For me, this was a critical start.

“They had a nice game plan against him last time. He did some good work in these last four days and he executed a game plan against them now. That’s what good pitchers do -- ‘Beat me last time and I’m going to work to beat you this time.’ He did a really good job of that. He made the necessary adjustments and most importantly, he executed.”