MESA, Ariz. — Left-hander Garrett Crochet caught everyone’s fancy by touching 101 and 102 mph last season.
A few months removed from college, the White Sox’ No. 11 overall pick in the draft also mixed in a plus slider and was close to unhittable. He didn’t allow a run in five appearances.
But in Cactus League games, Crochet hasn’t touched 100 yet.
“I wouldn’t look too far into it,” pitching coach Ethan Katz told the Sun-Times. “Those games [last season] are high-intensity, but he’s popping 98 and 99, and easily in a real game, [with] everything flowing right with his mechanics, you can be seeing 100, 101 again.
“I don’t look too much into that because there is stuff they’re working on — a bunch of guys in spring, mentally and physically — and the results in spring don’t mean what you’re going to see in the regular season.”
Crochet gained 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason, so that is different. He also has altered his delivery a bit.
“It was a little more crossfire . . . so he’s working hard on the side to get better direction toward home plate,” Katz said. “It’s also his first time through spring training. He had a different offseason than normal, and he put on some good weight.”
Crochet left Game 3 of the Sox’ 2020 wild-card series against the Athletics with a strained forearm, so the recovery from that set the stage for a different offseason.
“When you have a little down time, there is a tendency for pitchers where stuff creeps in that you’re not trying to have happen, and you have to readjust,” Katz said. “He’s readjusting nicely, and it’s starting to come together for him.”
Sitting at 96 mph and touching 97, Crochet made his seventh appearance of the spring against the Cubs on Tuesday. He tied up left-handed-hitting Joc Pederson with a four-seam fastball for a strikeout after getting Javy Baez on a ground ball to shortstop to open the inning. Jason Heyward barreled a slider down and in to the right-center-field gap for a double, and Nico Hoerner lined a fastball to center to score the Cubs’ first run.
Crochet has allowed one run in seven innings this spring. He struck out two batters in a scoreless inning against the Diamondbacks on Sunday and has seven strikeouts total.
“Every time I go back out there, I feel a lot more comfortable,” he said after a recent outing. “Once the season gets going and we’re competing against other teams, I obviously won’t be able to hold back at that point. Not really even that I’m holding back right now — just trying to perform well and earn myself a spot on the team.”
Watching Crochet last season was appointment TV. He threw 100 mph past the Reds’ Brian Goodwin for his first strikeout and threw 45 pitches at 100 mph or more over his five appearances. In six scoreless innings, he allowed three hits, struck out eight and allowed no walks.
The triple digits are probably yet to come. Not getting there yet “also has to do with him recovering from an offseason that was different based on what happened last year,” Katz said.
“He’s still getting into the swing of things he’s been eased into,” Katz said, “and we want to make sure he has ample amount of rest and that we’re not doing anything to stress him too much in spring training. He’s working through some things but looking better and better each time out.”