Giants top prospect Crick looks impressive
Pitcher soaking up first big league camp, strikes out side in 'B' game
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The subject was Kyle Crick's workload for the coming season. It's widely understood that the Giants' No. 1 prospect must amass between 160 and 180 innings to prepare himself for the rigors of starting in the Major Leagues.
Crick said that if he attains such durability this year, "I think I'll be right on track for the future."
He already looked primed for the future Monday.
Crick pitched two innings of relief in a "B" game against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa and concluded his outing by striking out the side in the seventh inning. The right-hander looked every bit like an emerging talent, from his initial discomfort to his ultimate dominance.
Making his first spring appearance other than a 1-2-3 inning in last Tuesday's intrasquad game, Crick calmed himself after allowing a run in his first inning.
"I think I was a little bit nervous and I was kind of scared to let it go," said Crick, who's rated 32nd on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list. "The second inning, I just started throwing the ball and not really worrying about where it ended up."
Jeff Arnold, who caught Crick during the previous two seasons at Class A Augusta and Class A Advanced San Jose, indicated that the 21-year-old is at his best when he's relaxed.
"We even kind of joke around during the game -- 'Let's get nasty with him right here,'" Arnold said, relating a typical conversation.
Crick did just that in his second inning.
"I went back there and I was saying, 'It's like any other game. I've done this a thousand times. It's the same distance everywhere,'" he said, describing his refreshed mindset. Two of his strikeout victims were themselves highly ranked prospects on MLB.com's list, No. 9 Kris Bryant and No. 49 Jorge Soler, who played with Crick in the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game last November. Bryant watched a 2-2 fastball dart past him before Soler fanned on another 2-2 heater.
The setting was modest and the stakes were nonexistent -- a "B" game at a mostly deserted ballpark early in the exhibition schedule. But don't tell that to Crick, who has made 44 professional appearances, including 36 starts, since the Giants selected him 49th overall in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
"Just the fact that I was on the mound in a big league game," observed Crick, who'll likely open this season at Double-A Richmond after an oblique injury limited him to 14 starts at San Jose last year. "Even if it was a 'B' game, it was a big deal to me."
Crick has fully capitalized on his first Spring Training invitation.
"Fantastic," he said, describing his experience. "I've learned more in the two or three weeks I've been here than I have in my whole Minor League career."
Like most pitchers, Crick has worked primarily on sharpening his fastball command. He also has improved his changeup to the point where he considers it his second-best pitch. He has received tips on making mechanical adjustments from player personnel director Dick Tidrow, who advised him to shorten his stride when he begins to elevate pitches.
In the clubhouse, Crick frequently can be seen talking to veteran pitchers, sponging advice from them.
"Just picking some brains," he said.
Crick also said that he has talked to Buster Posey to gain a catcher's perspective on the craft of pitching. On one recent morning, right fielder Hunter Pence held Crick's rapt attention.
"Hunter's got a good psychological view on the game," Crick said. "He's always positive and reinforces everything he says with his actions. He's a pretty cool guy to follow around."
At the current rate, Crick could be leading the Giants in a few years.