San Francisco Giants: Kyle Crick Needs More Big Spots Like Friday

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: A general view during the third inning of the San Francisco Giants game against the Milwaukee Brewers at AT
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: A general view during the third inning of the San Francisco Giants game against the Milwaukee Brewers at AT /

Middle relief is an issue for the San Francisco Giants, but after a stellar outing on Friday, Kyle Crick needs more chances to prove himself.

The bullpen has been an issue for the San Francisco Giants over the past two seasons. Lately, the late innings have been more stable, with Mark Melancon returning from his injury, Hunter Strickland continuing a strong season, and Sam Dyson continuing his resurgence with his new team. But the earlier innings remain a problem.

The bridge from starting pitcher to late-inning, shutdown guys is not as stable as it was during the Giants’ prime years. On Friday night, however, they got a glimpse of what could be a reliever ready to step in during those spots.

In the seventh inning of Friday night’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, left-handed reliever Josh Osich did something he has done far too often this year. He was tasked with getting a pair of southpaw hitters out, and couldn’t do it. With one out, he walked Daniel Descalso before David Peralta snuck a single through the right side of the infield.

Hoping to keep the deficit at just one run to give the Giants a fighting chance, Bruce Bochy turned to the youngest reliever in his bullpen, Kyle Crick. The 24-year-old right-hander entered just the 19th game of his big league career, and it was the biggest spot of the 19 games.

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With runners on the corners, Crick went to work against Chris Iannetta, who entered the at-bat with two hits and a walk on the night. The young hurler forced his way ahead 0-2 with his fastball, but couldn’t get Iannetta to chase with his next three heaters. Crick stuck to his guns with the count full, throwing a 96-mile-per-hour fastball out of the strikezone away. Iannetta started his swing and couldn’t hold up when he tried to check, giving Crick a strikeout.

The next batter was A.J. Pollock, and Crick didn’t shy away from throwing the heat. He threw two elevated fastballs, getting the former All-Star to swing through the first and pop the second up for a harmless out to end the inning.

The Giants couldn’t make the comeback in the eighth or ninth innings, but Crick kept them in the game with his stellar work. It was an eye-opening outing for Crick. He hadn’t been put in a spot like this before. Of his previous 18 appearances, the wide majority had come in games that weren’t particularly close. Only twice had he come in with a lead, and those leads were seven and eight runs, respectively.

Crick has proven to be something that the Giants don’t have a lot of coming out of the bullpen: a true strikeout pitcher. His overall numbers of 21 strikeouts in 23.1 innings (8.1 strikeouts per nine innings) don’t look overpowering, but that includes a stretch of just one strikeout in his first four appearances (5.1 innings). Since that small stretch to start his career, Crick has struck out 20 in 18 innings. His 2.70 ERA, 1.157 WHIP, and .203 opponent average all prove that he knows how to get big league hitters out.

With a hard fastball and dangerous slider that is still improving, Crick is made for spots like he was given on Friday. It may have taken longer than anticipated, and the role is different from the one he was seemingly destined for, but the former first-round pick is finally making his name at the big league level.

And a season like this is perfect for a guy like Crick to prove himself as a major league pitcher. The Giants have already been mathematically (and were out of the race long before), so putting an inexperienced player like Crick in big spots like that, giving him the opportunity to show that he can handle high-leverage situations, won’t hurt the team.

If anything, it helps the team for the future. It will be one less thing for them to worry about heading to next season, a season where they hope to contend again, if Crick can fill a void in the middle-to-late innings. So as long as other relievers, older and more experienced relievers, struggle to consistently get outs, letting Crick pitch in tight spots is not a bad thing for the Giants.

Next: 3 Up, 3 Down: Beating the Brew Crew

It’s been a long road for Crick to get to this point. He was, at one point, the Giants’ best prospect and one of the top prospects in all of baseball. But his lack of command stalled his career in Double-A, necessitating the move to the bullpen that has accelerated his progress again. This is his first year as a full-time reliever, and he has made tremendous strides. The reins should be taken off, and he should get the chance to show what he can fully do.