Photo: Casey Crosby fires a pitch from the mound in 2012 action as a member of the Toledo Mud Hens. Photo courtesy of Toledo Mud Hens
First big-league start whets Crosby’s appetite
by Mike Sandrolini
ELBURN—Casey Crosby certainly didn’t mind an unexpected change of plans late last May that got him to “The Show,” aka, the Major Leagues.
The former Kaneland High School star, drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2007, was to make a scheduled start for the club’s Class AAA affiliate Toledo Mud Hens in Scranton, Pa., on a Thursday night, May 31, 2012, against the Yankees’ farm team, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
Crosby would then travel back to Toledo after the game on the team bus overnight and meet his wife, Haley, who was driving up from Elburn, so the couple could spend some time together since the Mud Hens had a home stand that weekend.
But that was all before Mud Hens’ manager Phil Nevin paid Crosby a visit on Wednesday. Nevin informed him that his start was being pushed back to Friday, June 1. Crosby instead would be heading north to Detroit to take the place of the injured Doug Fister in the Tigers’ rotation, and thus, be making his first Major League start.
“It was a dream come true,” said Crosby, rated the Tigers’ No. 8 prospect after the 2012 season by Baseball America. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do (since I was a kid) ever since I could talk, really. My hair stood up and heart started racing nonstop after that.”
After getting the good news, he called Haley in Elburn, where the couple makes their home, but downplayed the change of plans.
“I played it off as not a big deal,” he said, “kind of joking with her that my start was being moved back to Friday because throwing against the New York Yankees was better than throwing against Scranton.”
Crosby’s mound opponent for his first big-league start was none other than C.C. Sabathia. However, Crosby said he didn’t allow the fact that he was facing one of baseball’s premier pitchers to affect his mindset before the game.
“If you treat the game bigger than it actually is, you’re going to get eaten up,” said Crosby, who interestingly was called C.C. by his youth travel team teammates because he, like Sabathia, is left-handed and his initials are C.C. “You’re already amped up because you’re there, but you want to calm yourself down. It’s the same game you’ve played as a kid. Since I was a little kid I watched him (Sabathia) pitch.”
Nonetheless, Crosby said it was quite an experience to step onto the field at Comerica Park for his first start in front of over 41,000 fans.
“Going into the stadium onto the field, just taking it in size of stadium, the cameras, it was such an uplifting feeling to know that you made it,” he said, “and doing something that pretty much not every kid can experience when they‘re older.”
Sabathia and the Yanks unfortunately got the better of Crosby and the Tigers that night, beating Detroit, 9-4. However, Crosby was back on the bump June 7, and did pick up his first Major League victory after the Tigers edged Cleveland, 7-5. He gave up three earned runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings.
“It was great,” Crosby said regarding getting the “W.” “Everything from seeing the last out made to getting the game ball to getting a beer shower, it was an amazing day.”
Fister returned from the disabled list in mid-June, so Crosby went back to Toledo to finish out the season. He was 7-9 with Toledo last year, with a 4.01 ERA, giving up 112 hits in 125 2/3 innings while striking out 112.
Crosby is on the Tigers’ 40-man roster and spent spring training at the team’s facility in Lakeland, Fla. He pitched a total of seven innings. That might not seem like a lot to the casual baseball observer, but Crosby explained there were only so many innings to go around, given the sheer number of pitchers in camp.
“There’s so many guys in spring training that everyone needs to get their reps in,” he said. “It’s hard (to get more innings). Most of guys were around seven innings. They’ve got some solid veteran pitchers.”
Crosby pitched two innings during his final spring outing with the Tigers, giving up one hit and no earned runs vs. the New York Mets. Although Crosby was optioned to Toledo in mid-March shortly after facing the Mets, Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland said he liked what he saw from the 24-year- old.
“He started to pitch with a little more confidence in his control,” Leyland told the Detroit Free Press. “Also had a pretty good curveball, so he’s a guy we want down there stretched out. He got his feet wet a little bit last year, got a little bit of an idea what it’s about up here. That’s a good thing.”
“They just said that I showed a lot of improvement from last spring training,” Crosby said of his conversations with those in the Detroit organization prior to him going back to Toledo. “Even though I’m getting sent down doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, that (I won’t) get back into the big leagues. If I’m a guy who’s doing well down here, I’ll get the call (back up), but I just have to keep plugging away and working.”
Crosby’s curveball was rated the best in the Tigers’ farm system by Baseball America after the 2012 season, but he also possesses a fastball that’s clocked in the mid-90s.
“The main thing they told me is keep throwing strikes and not holding back with my fastball,” Crosby said. “Let it go and throw strikes with it.”
Crosby said he’ll be on a pitch count (80 to 90 pitches per start) in Toledo until late April.
“They still project me as a starter,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to spot start a game or two (this year in Detroit).”