CLEVELAND — Kyle Crockett had a feeling that Friday wasn’t going to be an ordinary day when Akron pitching coach Jeff Harris told him to be ready to pitch.
When a couple of Crockett’s teammates told him that his bags weren’t on the bus for the RubberDucks’ road trip to Erie, he knew a promotion was coming. What Crockett didn’t know is how big the call up would be.
Instead of going to Triple-A Columbus like he expected, Crockett was called up by the Indians, becoming the first member of the MLB Draft Class of 2013 make it to the majors.
"They (Harris and manager Dave Wallace) called me into their office and gave me the news. I broke out in tears," Crockett said. "I’m not a big, emotional guy but this is everything I’ve ever dreamed of so it was hard to hold in."
After that, Crockett called his parents, who were as equally emotional, with the news.
It didn’t take long for Crockett to get into his first game. With Cleveland getting hammered 8-1, the left-hander entered with one out in the second and went 1 1/3 innings, giving up a run on two hits with a walk in an 11-1 loss at Progressive Field.
"I definitely struggled but it is good to get that first one out of the way," Crockett said.
Rapid Rise to the Majors
Drafted in the fourth round last year, Crockett has had a rapid ascent through the Indians’ system. After being the 110th overall pick out of the University of Virginia, he started his pro career with Mahoning Valley last June before being promoted to Lake County on July 24 and ending the season in Akron on Aug. 4.
This season with the RubberDucks, Crockett had six saves in 15 appearances while allowing just one earned run in 15 2/3 innings. Left-handed hitters in the Eastern League were just 2 of 17 against him.
Crockett is the first to admit that the road to the majors has been surprising and that the move has been quicker than anticipated.
"Just hearing stories from other guys, I thought the minor-league life would be tougher and longer," he said. "I moved pretty quickly to Akron and now up to here. I thought you go to every level first. I didn’t think last year I was going to skip High-A (Carolina).
"I thought (the past couple weeks) that maybe I would move up if do well a couple more times. I went out, pitched and tried my best."
At 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, Crockett is not an imposing reliever. Before Friday’s game Francona echoed the sentiments of nearly everyone when he said Crockett looked like "he just turned 13."
Just because he isn’t tall and physical though doesn’t mean that Crockett isn’t about to give up ground to anyone. Francona talked about Crockett coming in last September to work with pitching coach Mickey Callaway before Crockett went to the Arizona Fall League and how impressed they were because they thought Crockett was going to be on the fast track.
The favorable impressions continued in Cactus League play when Crockett made a couple appearances and wasn’t fazed.
"He’s not going to be intimidated. He pounds the strike zone and throws all his pitches for strikes," Francona said. "There’s not a ton of development left other than facing major-league hitters."
No Time to Relax
Crockett barely had time to settle in to his spot in the bullpen when the phone rang summoning him to warm up. Zach McAllister had struck out the side in the first but lost his control immediately as the first five Oakland batters in the second reached base, capped by Josh Reddick’s grand slam to make it 5-1. Four hitters later, McAllister’s night was over after Josh Donaldson’s three-run homer to left.
Crockett walked Brandon Moss on five pitches but got out of the inning by getting Yoenis Cespedes to ground into a double play.
In the third, Crockett gave off a leadoff homer to right on a 2-1 fastball to Jed Lowrie, which is only the third home run that the left-hander has allowed since his freshman year in college (he allowed one at Class-A Lake County last year). Derek Norris reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error but Crockett ended his night by getting Reddick and Eric Sogard to fly out. Crockett ended up throwing 24 pitches with 12 strikes.
"It was kind of nerve-wracking out there but getting that double play ball helped," Crockett said. "I got behind in the counts early and had trouble getting around the zone but I felt more comfortable after giving up the home run."
Added Francona: "I thought he was nervous which is to be expected. He’ll be a command guy and he was yanking some pitches. It was good to get that first one out of the way and let him settle in."