BRADENTON, FL - MARCH 02: Pitcher Mike Crotta #60 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Minnesota Twins during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at McKechnie Field on March 2, 2011 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Jenifer Langosch's piece today marks the second occasion of which I'm aware of a reporter praising Michael Crotta's performance so far this spring. Here's Langosch:
He lives on his heavy sinker, a pitch that was especially sharp in his first inning of work. He battled through the second inning without as an effective a sinker, but Crotta got out of the inning unscathed nonetheless.
"He's definitely got the attention of some people," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's pitching with purpose."
No idea where Mike Crotta will end up, but he has pitched very well every time he has been handed the ball this spring.
Well, he has only been handed the ball twice during games, but maybe Dunlap means in drills, too. I don't think both Langosch and Dunlap noticing something is terribly significant. But it will be interesting to see what the Pirates do with him this year. He spent most of last season at Class AAA not pitching particularly well, and he's 26. The Pirates have him on the 40-man roster, though, so they obviously don't consider him an organizational player.
The key for Crotta's season could be the influx of starters to Indianapolis (and actually, I don't envy the group of people who are going to have to decide what to do with all the pitchers there). Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson will all likely be in the rotation, and they'll probably also send Brad Lincoln there. On top of that, there's also Brian Burres, Fernando Nieve, Tony Watson, Daniel McCutchen and Cesar Valdez, who can all start.
Some of those guys will be relievers, and it's possible the Bucs will send Locke back to Altoona, but it will still be tough for Crotta to stick as a starter. This seems like an ideal time to try him as a reliever, and he might do well in that role since, at least at points, he has tended to pitch well for an inning or two and then struggle after that. If the Bucs move him to the bullpen, he could find himself in the majors fairly quickly, keeping the ball low in the zone and racking up ground balls.
Mark In Dallas compiled video of one of Crotta's games last year. Here are his first few innings: