Crotta Shines and the Walker Watch
The Indianapolis Indians are an IL best 15-5 since April 23 and are off to their best start in three years. Last night the Tribe earned their 20th win in game #35 after having to wait until game #42 a season ago. 25 year-old Mike Crotta pitched 7 innings improving to 2 and 1 in three career Triple-A starts. Crotta does not have overpowering stuff, but his sinker is Major League ready. He is nearly 6’8″ and throws on such a downward plane that his fastball can appear to drop off the face of the earth. He is the first Indians pitcher since the working agreement with the Pirates was put in place to pitch at least 7 innings in his first three starts. To be fair most starters are limited by pitch counts to even have the opportunity to go deep into games. So I did some digging and this is only the 7th time since 2005 a pitcher has put together a three game stretch like Crotta. He does not have an overpowering fastball or big breaking ball and is no where near the Pirates prospect list. Prospects come with promise and question marks. Mike Crotta is steady, consistant, and bring stability to any pitching staff.
“It’s never easy out there, but I was in control all night. The idea is to throw strikes and pounded the zone with my sinker.” Crotta went to say that he understands there will be nights when the groundballs will become hits, but eventually those groundballs will find his defense. “Pedro was great at third and when a right hander is at the plate my third baseman needs to be ready. I’m a ground ball pitcher and for most of my career I’ve been a guy who will work deep into games and can do it ease.” Throughout his career he has had trouble with left handers, but he is working on that. “Left handers can flip my sinker to the opposite field so I need to pitch inside and get them to roll the ball to the right side of the infield. So far I’m pleased with my starts.” Hard to disagree with Mike and he received high praise from C Erik Kratz. “He was dominate and it was easy to call the game. I just kept calling fastball and the sink was just too much for the hitters. I could sense they were frustrated and lacked confidence.”
While Crotta was shutting down the Mud Hens Pedro Alvarez, Brian Friday, and Neil Walker were playing home run derby. All three went deep with Pedro’s 4th inning home run scoring the games first runs. The 23 year-old is a run producing machine. He leads the Indians with 36 runs batted in and 9 home runs. His ribbies come in bunches with 30 of his 36 coming in 10 games. What impresses me is that he doesn’t leave men on base. Well, at least it feels that way. Whether it is a base hit or a ground out, Pedro believe it is his job to drive in runs and he does all he can to make contact.
Brian Friday hit a blast off the left field scoreboard giving him his first Triple-A home run. He was humble after the game and I was finally able to say TGIF. It has been 70 game since his last home run. He went deep July 20, 2009 while playing in Double-A.
Neil Walker continues to hit and his 9th inning home run extends his hit streak to nine games. Not only is this a 9 game hit streak, but he has an extra-base hit in 9 straight games. He is now hitting .336 and has raised his game this month. In May Walker is hitting .358/.404/.755 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 13 of his 19 hits going for extra-base hits. The question is when will Walker get the call to Pittsburgh? The recent belief here and here is that he may get the call on May 20th. Every player in the Indians clubhouse knows that Neil is ready to join the Pirates. I asked several players after Thursday’s 4 hit performance and to a man they told me he has proved he is ready for the next level.
It is tough to be picky, but Neil does need more work at second base. I have seen him make some great plays going to both his left and his right. He has not turned many double plays and according to the Indians coaching staff is simply lacking reps at second base. No body expects him to hit .336 in the big leagues so he needs to prove he can play second base. Walker will tell you he can play at 2B and he is ready to play for his hometown team. Walker is not expecting a call up and will continue to plug away with the Tribe. When Neil gets the call the Indians will have an void to fill. He has played great defense and has been a leader in the clubhouse. His time will come, but not yet. Who knows, maybe he will be at second base on Friday when the Pirates host Atlanta.
The big story in Toledo was not the game, but American Idol finalist Crystal Bowersox returing to her hometown. You can find here performance within the link and at the beginning it is a standard anthem. She added some flavor towards the end and when she finished there were 13,000+ on their feet creating a really cool atmosphere. I do not watch Idol so I placed a call to my Aunt who votes religiously. She tells me that Bowersox is really good, but my Aunt is pulling for some contestant from Chicago. No one of the Indians is an avid Idol watcher, but several wives are. It was neat to see both teams come out of the early to see the hoopla and watch the National Anthem.
Daniel McCutchen is on the mound tonight shooting for his 3rd win in 4 starts. The Indians pitching staff is getting it done this month. Their May ERA of 3.34 is the best in the league. The Tribe is the only team this year to not lose a game when leading after 6 innings. “When leading after…” stats can be misleading, but the Indians 19-0 record with a lead after the 6th jumps off the page. Only once have the Indians blow a lead when leading after 6 innigns and that was on April 26th at Louisville. The Indians blew a few leads that night before winning in 15 innings.
Hope you can join us for the broadcast tonight at 7:00.
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