How White Sox’ Garrett Crochet is learning in the big league ‘pen

Garrett Crochet, it might be argued, shouldn’t even be here by now.

The lanky left-handed man proved otherwise, of course, with a mind-boggling performance in the closing stages of last season whipping 101 mph fastballs from Big League Batters, leaving the Chicago White Sox with no choice but to use him as part of their bullpen in a. record season with World Series expectations.

But had the circumstances of the 2020 season been normal, Crochet might have been on a more normal path. He might not have made the jump from the first-round draft pick to the major league relief. He could have set up more than one game during his junior season at the University of Tennessee. He might have found himself at a minor league subsidiary and on his way to becoming part of the future White Sox rotation.

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With 2020 far from normal, Crochet found himself on a hill in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, coughing a freshly earned lead in the White Sox’s fifth straight loss.

After Yasmani Grandal hit a clutch three-run homer in the top of the seventh, Crochet faced four thugs in the lower part of the inning. All four singles. All four have scored. The White Sox lost the game.

“I try to get in, get better and win games just like everyone else,” said Crochet on Wednesday. “I don’t necessarily treat it like the baby phases (of my career), but I do realize that I have a lot to learn and a lot of room to grow.

“(Throwing out of the Major League bullpen is very different from college, because you have a game the next night and don’t have to wait a whole week. At least that’s nice to be able to come back so quickly. But next time we come out we won’t think about it.

“I’m just going to try to dominate from now on.”

Crochet’s first full season in the majors wasn’t a bad one. He had a .44 ERA two weeks ago and had never given up a home run. But like his team as a whole, he is stuck in a difficult phase where at least one run is allowed in each of his last three appearances. That raised his ERA to 2.78.

Most importantly, he’s not throwing 101 mph this year. And he dismissed that as no big deal: “If 100 comes back, it comes back,” he said in April. “As long as the arm feels good, I agree with everything the Veloboard says.”

His development as a pitcher seems to be the reason. To borrow an often-used baseball stereotype, he’s evolving from thrower to thrower, and with the refinement of this technique there is hope that there will be more effective pitching and less reliance on pure heat – although the three-digit readings on the radar gun are wowing fans .

Crochet and the White Sox see his turn as a relief as a positive as he continues to evolve at the big league level. The long-term plan is for Crochet to become a starting pitcher, and that could come as early as next season if he and his fellow starter-in-waiter Michael Kopech could get out of the auxiliary corps.

Until then, he will gather lessons that might help him along the way.

“I think the experience in the big leagues themselves is invaluable,” said Crochet. “To be out here alone, getting reps with the big boys we have here, and just being able to take part in every part, just learning and being successful and failing at this level is mine In my opinion the biggest advantage in the bullpen at the moment. I think this will be of great benefit to me in the long term at this stage in my career. “

“The best advantage is that he feels the pressure, the immediate pressure, to come to the rescue,” said White Sox manager Tony La Russa on Wednesday. “There’s nothing like being in the middle of a key situation. It’s a different kind of pressure when you’re a beginner. You have four days to prepare, you warm up, and you’ll have ‘more than one or two Innings to prove you can make a difference. So it’s a really healthy dose to feel the pressure and learn how to handle it. “

As fans scratch their heads wondering where’s the guy who dominated the competition last year, the White Sox see the long-term benefits that are being achieved right now.

La Russa often mentions how one can learn more from failure than from success. And although Crochet had a lot of success this year too, it could be these learning experiences as a replacement in 2021 that will make him a successful starter mug in the years to come.

“There is no doubt that this concept is true, it has been proven time and time again. However, there are a few points,” said La Russa. “First, you need to have the coaching that will help you learn from the experience. And then you have to have the mental strength not to get discouraged and frustrated and to doubt, but to understand that it is a learning process and everyone goes through it and those two things are here.

“Garrett, he’s determined to be a great, special pitcher and he’s being well trained. … Adversity teaches you. You have to make sure you are using them properly and that is what is done here. “

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