Sox Insider

Crochet could be Sox playoff super weapon out of the 'pen

Sox Insider

"Ready the laser."

When White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper gets on the phone to the bullpen during the postseason, instead of telling bullpen coach Curt Hasler to get Garrett Crochet ready to come into a game, he should say that. Or something else a super villain might say.

Because Crochet isn't just a bullpen reinforcement for these White Sox. He's a potential playoff super weapon.

RELATED: White Sox have to hit playoff reset button right now: 'There's no tomorrow'

Crochet has been dazzling to watch in his brief major league career, which shockingly began this season after he was selected with the No. 11 pick in the June draft. Three months later, he was blowing big league batters away — and doing it without a lick of minor league experience in a year with no minor league games to play in.

Prior to his call-up for the final 10 games of the regular season, the only professional hitters he'd faced were in simulated games at the White Sox alternate training site in Schaumburg. Given the White Sox previously established patience when it comes to their top rated prospects, it seemed a stretch, at the least, to suggest Crochet would be pitching on the South Side this season.

But all he's done is come up and fired one 100-mile-an-hour fastball after another past just about every batter he's faced.

"For me, and I think I'm speaking for everybody," third baseman Yoán Moncada said Saturday through team interpreter Billy Russo, "every time I see him coming into the game, my thought is, 'OK, it's going to be a 1-2-3 inning.'"

 

Crochet has inspired that kind of confidence in the opening days of his major league career. He made five appearances during the final 10 days of the regular season, throwing 85 pitches, with 45 of them hitting triple digits on the radar gun. He faced 22 batters and retired 18 of them, with eight strikeouts. Two of his six innings of work were 1-2-3 frames, so Moncada's not exactly lying.

After he was drafted, Crochet talked about being ready for the major league challenge. He got it, and he met it.

"It just makes me hungrier for the next one," he said. "Just trying to get this thing rolling as we go into the postseason. Really just trying to go out there and do the best I can every time. That's all I can ask of myself, and glad that's been working out for me so far."

Crochet passed his first test as a big leaguer with flying colors. Now it's playoff time, a different world than what many of these young White Sox have ever experienced, according to veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal. That obviously includes the youngest among them in Crochet.

But Crochet has opposing hitters flummoxed. And he's shown manager Rick Renteria he can be relied on. He was thrown into high-leverage spots, in the late innings of tight games against the playoff-bound Cleveland Indians last week. He was deployed on back-to-back days. He pitched two scoreless innings Saturday against the Cubs.

All those are necessities to be a super weapon come playoff time. In an environment where bullpens are leaned on heavily, Crochet could emerge as multi-inning option late in a game — or whenever the highest leverage moments pop up — doing the kind of thing that made Andrew Miller a relief star in recent years.

The long-term plan is for Crochet to be a part of the White Sox starting rotation. But now, he's given the White Sox something the rest of a talented bullpen can't: heat. And lots of it.

"He just goes out there and pounds them with the 100-mile-an-hour heater, which is pretty good to see," fellow reliever Matt Foster said. "He does a very good job, and it's been awesome to watch him, especially warming up.

"You hear the ball hit the mitt, and it's like a loud bang. You're just like, 'Oh my gosh, that's crazy.'"

It might sound a little nuts to put Miller-level responsibilities on a kid who was able to make just one start during his junior season at the University of Tennessee before it was shut down due to the pandemic, then pitched in zero minor league games, then threw just six innings before the regular season ended.

But Crochet has caught the White Sox attention in a different way than simply throwing absolute gas.

"Beyond his repertoire, his mound presence and composure," Renteria said. "He just turned 21 not too long ago. There’s another young man with a gifted arm, great stuff, but the way he is carrying himself out there is impressive. To command the zone with that kind of stuff is pretty awesome."

 

"He’s handled it as if he’s had 10 years in this game," bench coach Joe McEwing said.

He's also received the stamp of approval from catcher James McCann, who found out a lot about Crochet after the young fireballer took a grounder off the leg in Saturday night's game.

"He's quickly become one of my favorites," McCann said. "He was kind of flabbergasted that I would come out to the mound after he took the ground ball off the leg, wondering why I was out there. And I had to remind him that we need to take care of him. And he said, 'Get back behind there, and I'll throw. You don't need to be out here.'

"It just kind of shows you, he's a competitor, he's not afraid of anybody, and he's a tough kid."

It all adds up to something that could potentially be very special — not to mention extraordinarily useful — now that the White Sox have entered the postseason.

Ready the laser.

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