GLENDALE, Ariz. — When last seen, right-hander Jesse Crain was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. That’s right, check the numbers. During the first half of the 2013 season, Crain threw 29 consecutive scoreless innings and posted a 0.74 ERA over 36 2/3 innings.
A shoulder strain sidelined Crain in early July, preventing Crain from participating in the All-Star Game. After the Sox traded him to the Rays as part of a salary dump, he never got on the field for Tampa and was dealt to the Astros before the 2014 season, but his recovery from biceps surgery took longer than expected and he never pitched for Houston, either.
Shortly before camp opened in February, the Sox brought back Crain, 33, by signing him to a low risk minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. It’s been so-far, so good for Crain, who threw his second live batting practice session of the spring Thursday.
“I was able to let the ball go more today,” Crain said. “Another couple of steps on that ladder we’ve been talking about.”
Crain will probably throw more live batting practice Sunday. He hopes to pitch in a minor league or B game here soon, and eventually a Cactus League game but the right-hander would more than likely need more game action at AAA Charlotte should his health and stuff be translating to a major league job.
If he comes back to close to what he was, Crain, who posted a 2.10 ERA while averaging 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 2 1/2 seasons with the Sox, could be a significant piece in the bullpen.
“I don’t know what they think or where I’m going to be. I know I’m getting close,” Crain said. “The most I can do is get to where I feel very comfortable and I feel like I can help the team. When that is, I don’t know when that’s going to be. Those decisions will be made when that time comes. I’m still working on just getting the best I can be right now.
“I’m getting real excited today. … I felt really close to a place where I haven’t been in a long time. So I’m happy.” Being able to let the ball go and it feeling good to do it. As far as, I would like to be a little more consistent with my mechanics but being able to get extension now, that’s going to come pretty fast I think. It’s nice to be able to be out there and not worry about how your arm is going to feel. I’m getting closer to having nothing there at all.Crain said he feels well both in body and mind.“Being able to let the ball go and it feeling good to do it,” he said. “I would like to be a little more consistent with my mechanics but being able to get extension now, that’s going to come pretty fast I think. It’s nice to be able to be out there and not worry about how your arm is going to feel. I’m getting closer to having nothing there at all.”