At Greensboro on April 10, Hans Crouse showed the stuff that makes fans Texas Rangers drool and dream of what might be at the new Arlington ballpark in a few years. Put together an upper 90s fastball along with a frisbee of a slider that darts away from right-handed hitters, and Crouse has a weaponry that frustrates hitters at the plate. He did just that with 9 strikeouts over five innings of one-hit ball.
That’s what Hickory was expecting to see last August when the right-hander came up from short-season Spokane. However, Crouse struggled with command at times and South Atlantic League hitters popped him at a .273 batting average.
When I asked pitching coach Jose Jaimes about how Crouse adjusted to the more advanced league, Jaimes responded, “Maybe (it was) surprising to him. I think, maybe, he wasn’t expecting that, especially happening multiple times.”
Back for a full season with Hickory, Crouse is determined to get back into the same groove that made him a Northwest League All-Star last summer and had him tabbed as a short-season all-star by Baseball America.
I had a chance to sit down with Crouse for a short interview prior to a team workout last week. We talked about his month with Hickory in 2018 and what he’s working on for 2019. He also talked about some of quirks that makes Crouse an unique pitcher to watch.
You got a little taste of this level last year. I just had a chance to talk with (Jose) Jaimes (Crawdads pitching coach) and he mentioned that you might have been surprised at the level. What was the end of last year like for you? You had some success here, but it wasn’t Spokane anymore.
The competition was no different from Spokane. It was just more of, I just came here and I tried to over impress when I just needed to do exactly what I did in Spokane and stay true to how I know how to pitch. I still had success here, but it just never felt the same as how comfortable I felt in Spokane. It probably was just a combination of things – coming in, trying to impress a new group of guys, gel with a new group of guys with only a month left. So, everything just felt very quick.
Describe how you felt you were over impressing. What did that mean for you?
I was trying to overthrow certain pitches, especially my slider. My slider has always been my bread-and-butter pitch, offspeed 0-2 wise. I just probably tried to overthrow it, just yanked on it a little bit and just wasn’t landing for strikes as much as I needed it to.
Was it that you felt guys were watching you? Was part of that, perhaps, the guys were in a playoff run at that point? Were you trying to overcompensate to be a part of that?
No, I was just trying to pitch as best as I could. I probably tried a little too hard off the get go. Like I said, I just needed to pitch like I did in Spokane and it would’ve been more than just fine.
What will you change for this year, or will you change anything for this year?
No, I mean, I feel really comfortable where I’m at. I developed my changeup a lot better this year and I’m going to use that a lot more this year. Then, just stick with how I know how to pitch – using my fastball, pitching up with it, pitching in with it like I like to throw it. And then, just landing that slider like I know how to.
How old are you?
You get the ball for opening night. How wild is that when you were in high school two years ago?
It’s definitely a dream come true, for sure. It’s something that I have to thank God for, number one, and also my family back home for putting me in this situation. It’s cool to see hard work paying off, at the same time. That day, if the coaching staff has that kind of trying of trust in me, it’s going to be a special night.
From pitching in high school to this point, what’s the biggest growth you’ve had to this point?
I’d probably just say on the mental side of the pitching game. In high school – I still am very animated out on the mound – but in high school it was even more drastic in terms of talking back to umps and shouting stuff you can’t get away with in pro ball. It’s more finding the right gear when to hit that notch and when to be aggressive.
I’m always aggressive on the mound but balancing out the different sides. There’s a time to be aggressive, and that’s when I’m on the mound, and then there’s a time to lay back and chill.
One of things I’ve noticed is that you have a lot of different quirks in winding up. How did that come about?
I watched a lot of video on Johnny Cueto. That’s where I got the shimmy from. Other than that, all that other stuff, I didn’t watch any video. I just wanted to give hitters a different look and I’m comfortable throwing strikes in any position my body is put in. So, if I can give hitters multiple looks and get them thinking even more, I’m going to use that to my advantage.
That’s not something you see a lot at this level, as everybody is still trying to figure out who they are. Is that something the Rangers have encouraged you to do?
Yeah, they’ve embraced all my deliveries from day one and my style of pitching, which is what I really loved about being with Texas. They’ve really shown their commitment to develop me as a pitcher, but also letting me keep all my different deliveries and stuff I like to do out on the mound.