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Garrett Crochet, White Sox’ bats give glimpses of fans’ highest hopes, worst fears in Opening Day loss

Vinnie Duber Avatar
March 28, 2024
Garrett Crochet

To take much from one day of the 162-game, six-month marathon that is the Major League Baseball season is a fool’s errand.

Allow me then, for a moment at least, to play the fool.

The White Sox seemed to show visions of a potential future during their 1-0 loss to the Tigers on Opening Day, both the good that can come from a season of learning and development as well as the bad that could torture fans throughout the franchise’s latest rebuilding year.

On one hand, Garrett Crochet was spectacular, the surprise Opening Day starter continuing his quest to vault from bullpen weapon to top-of-the-rotation ace. In his first career start — all 73 major league innings he logged prior to Thursday afternoon came in relief — he dazzled with six innings of one-run ball, striking out eight Tigers and walking none.

The lone run he gave up was manufactured to a “T” — resembling the type of thing Pedro Grifol wants to see from his White Sox — with former Cub and boo-bird target Javy Báez singling, stealing second base, moving to third on a ground ball to the right side and scoring on a sacrifice fly.

But for that to be the lone negative for Crochet spoke to how electric he was.

Of particular note was how he managed to throw six innings, a feat in itself considering his previous career high for an outing was three innings and he didn’t make it much longer during this past Cactus League schedule. But for all the queries of whether the light-on-innings lefty could handle a starter’s workload, he silenced any doubters — or merely shocked any nonbelievers — by being mighty efficient, reaching a grand total of 87 pitches in his six innings of work.

And he felt like he had even more to give.

“Just going back out there, getting to sit down on the bench knowing that I had the chance to go back out and keep doing my thing,” Crochet said when asked what the best part of his day was. “I felt good. In my opinion, I was ready to go back out there for the seventh, at least go batter to batter or something like that. Having only (pitched four innings in a game during) spring training, I think that was the main thing that kind of gave us pause. To give my team a quality start in the first one, nothing better than that.”

Of course, while some among us might have been surprised by the answer to those workload questions, the White Sox themselves knew what they had in Crochet by the end of the spring. His plug-in to the Opening Day starter’s role might have had something to do with Dylan Cease vacating it when he was traded to Padres, but Crochet earned this spot, too, with how he pitched over the last month and a half.

“That’s why he was (pitching on) Opening Day,” Grifol said of Crochet’s performance. “That’s what we saw in spring training. … This outing doesn’t shock me. It doesn’t surprise me.

“When you have a pitcher with that type of stuff that has that will and that drive to prove he can do something, it just doesn’t surprise me.”

Of course, this is an ongoing experiment, and the answer to the question of whether or not Crochet can do this in the long run will come, well, in the long run.

But a guy who was so convicted in wanting to make the jump to the rotation has done nothing but ooze comfort and confidence in his ability to make this happen. On a day when he got really good results, for him, it wasn’t about doing something new but getting back to his standard operating procedure.

“For me, it really wasn’t a drastic change,” Crochet said. “It was kind of things getting back to normal, in my opinion.”

Crochet blossoming into a frontline starter would be a pretty fantastic development for a White Sox team in flux, one rebuilding toward the next contending team, however many years down the road that might be. But it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops on Thursday.

Fans spent the spring fretting that an offseason light on big-bat additions would mean an offense incapable of scoring many runs, and those worst fears came true on Opening Day. The White Sox’ lineup mustered only three hits, all singles, and didn’t get a runner past first base. The last 17 South Side swingers to step to the plate went down in order. There wasn’t a walk to be found.

That’s not to say the Tigers weren’t doing their part, with Tarik Skubal and a trio of relievers pitching very well. But after the game, after watching Crochet have the eye-popping performance he did, the guys who failed to produce weren’t just tipping their caps.

“Definitely feels like a punch in the gut,” Andrew Vaughn said of the loss. “(Crochet) went out there and threw the ball really well, all our pitchers did. They chucked it. They were around the zone, they battled. We just didn’t string anything together.”

Emerging healthy from spring training — with the exception of backup catcher Max Stassi, who went on the injured list before the season’s first game — Thursday’s lineup was the same one that will be counted on all year to score runs, but it looked all too much like the same one that was one of the game’s least productive in 2023.

Again, it’s one game, and all it’ll take to make this performance a distant memory is stringing some hits together and crossing the plate a few times two days from now. But the White Sox showed nothing Thursday to counter the idea that runs could be in short supply this season. Luis Robert Jr. is perhaps the only hitter on the team assumed to avoid an unproductive year, and though he had one of those three singles, it was an accidental infield hit on a conveniently placed nubber.

And so Opening Day did plenty to give White Sox fans a glimpse of what could go very right and what could also go very wrong for the team this season. But remember, it’s just that, a glimpse. There’s 161 more of these things coming over the next six months, meaning the story — good or bad — is far from written.

But if Crochet keeps pitching like this? It could be a very good thing for these rebuilding White Sox. And if the offense keeps playing like that? It could be a very bad thing for these rebuilding White Sox.

Foolish enough for you? Happy to help on Day 1 of the 2024 season.

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