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White Sox see Opening Day, regular season as ‘best test’ in Garrett Crochet experiment

Vinnie Duber Avatar
March 27, 2024
Garrett Crochet

The Garrett Crochet experiment has already reached some unexpected places.

At the start of spring camp, when the White Sox revealed they were giving their 2020 first-round pick a chance to be a big league starting pitcher, we had no idea where that would lead come Opening Day, whether Crochet would be a major league starter, a minor league starter or a major league reliever building up innings.

Shockingly, he’ll throw the first pitch of the 2024 season.

And if he and the team get their way, about 80 more after that.

Congratulations to the big lefty, who’s been saying for some time now that his preference was to be part of a big league rotation, not just serving as a relief weapon. But we still have no clue whether this is going to work.

Crochet and the White Sox are, unsurprisingly, far more confident, buoyed by his performance during spring training, when even in small doses he was flat out dominant. It wasn’t until his final outing, after he earned the unexpected Opening Day nod, that he allowed a run. Early spring strikeouts of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout had radar guns lighting up, bringing to mind the 101-mile-an-hour heat he unleashed as a rookie four years ago.

But folks, especially those who like to look at the numbers, see an arm without nearly as many miles on it — he’s only accumulated 73 major league innings, all in relief — and wonder how that can be thrown into the deep end of a big league starter’s workload.

Crochet claims he wants to be a regular starter, someone who can be relied on to deliver seven innings every five days. Is that truly possible?

Much like their explanation during Crochet’s mysterious spring ramp-up, the White Sox are saying they’ll see how things go.

“We expect him to be more than just an opener,” Chris Getz said during the team’s workout Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “An opener is usually a one-inning, perhaps a two-inning type starter, where we expect him to work deeper into games.

”We’ll adjust accordingly. We’re going to go out tomorrow and try to win that baseball game regardless of how many innings he throws. But the expectation is for him to work his way deeper into the game.

“Early on, I think we can expect him to go deep into games and be a standard starter. Obviously, his feedback (will be informative), and the game will give us feedback, as well, in terms of what he’s capable of doing. It’s something that we’re going to have to keep our thumb on and read the situation, and a lot of it’s going to be with the feedback we gain from Garrett.

“There’s a general framework that we have in mind. … He was so convicted in wanting to be a starting pitcher for us, so I certainly want to give him a runway to do that. And what he’s shown so far is he can work multiple innings. And we’ll continue to build from there.”

It’s an approach that’s short on publicized specifics, which is likely to leave plenty frustrated as they try to figure out what to expect. While the White Sox seem to have far more pitching depth than they have had in recent history, “we’ll see” is far from a solid foundation on which to forecast a season.

Surely, there’s more than that happening behind the scenes. But of the utmost importance, as Getz said, will be how Crochet’s feeling from outing to outing. Crochet said Wednesday that things went as hoped on that front during the spring, another thing boosting the confidence that things will work out as hoped now that the lights get a lot brighter.

“I’m confident,” he said. “My body was reacting well throughout the entire spring training, so I intend to keep the routine going and keep taking care of my body the way I have been and everything else should fall into place.

“The build-up went about as predicted. But like I’ve kind of preached about all spring, it’s the five-day routine that kind of helped me to keep the load management under my own control.”

As for how this will all play out, well, we’ll see. In a season with extremely low external expectations, the White Sox can take the opportunity to experiment, to see what Crochet truly is and whether he can be a cornerstone as Getz plots the next contending team on the South Side.

As much as some might have wanted a definitive ruling by the end of spring training, that’s not what this is, and the White Sox will spend the next six months seeing how Crochet’s body responds to being handed the workload of major league starting pitcher — and what sort of adjustments need to be made to that workload to preserve his left arm.

But after a few brief Cactus League appearances, this is now the moment in which that learning gets serious.

“Everyone, including myself, we didn’t know how this was going to play out,” Getz said. “We’ve seen glimpses of Garrett being able to pound the zone and put guys away and end at-bats. In spring training, right out of the gate, he had some innings that were less than 15 pitches. And then we had additional innings that were very similar. He seems to have the right mindset.

”Obviously, the regular season will be the best test to see what he’s capable of doing. But it was very encouraging so far.”

And so here’s the test, one of the six-month variety that begins with the Tigers on Thursday afternoon.

Will Crochet ace the thing and become the new staff ace, a position up for grabs now that Dylan Cease is a Padre and Michael Kopech was deemed best suited for bullpen work?

It might not be an answer that provides a lot of illumination, but it seems to be the most accurate one at the moment:

We’ll see.

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