After pitching coach Andrew See told Brooks Crawford Tuesday morning he would be Friday’s starter against South Alabama in 14th-ranked Clemson’s season opener, the senior picked up the phone and called his parents.
Like any young man who earned the right to be given the baseball first on opening day, Crawford was excited to tell his parents. However, at first, Crawford decided to play a little trick.
“I was really excited so I kind of joked with my parents and told them, I was like, ‘I’m not starting anymore,’” he said while laughing. “My parent’s kind of laughed about it. It kind of gave them a little bit of a scare.”
Crawford suggested to his parents he was going to be a midweek starter.
“They kind of started laughing about it,” he said. “But it is nothing to joke about, though. Midweeks are important. Every year I have been here, we always make an emphasis on them. So, if I was a midweek starter, I would have been happy about it because those games are really important as well.”
But Crawford isn’t a midweek starter. He is the Tigers’ Friday guy, a position he earned thanks to a career where he has progressed into one of Clemson’s most consistent pitchers.
This time two years ago, Crawford was a bullpen pitcher. Last year, he earned the right to be Clemson’s Saturday pitcher and he came through with an 8-2 record in 16 starts. The Tigers were actually 14-2 in his 16 starts.
Crawford finished the season with a 3.24 ERA.
“He is 15-2 as a starter and that played a lot into (my decision),” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said on why they decided to give Crawford the ball for Friday’s game.
Lee said Crawford picked up where he left off last summer during fall practice, as well as in the pre-season intra-squad scrimmages the last three weeks.
“I think he is more of a complete starter right now than he has been in previous years,” the Clemson coach said. “But he had a lot of success for us last year. He has been a workhorse. He has been a guy that has been able to take the baseball every single week and give us quality starts.
“I think he is even more ready to be able to go deeper into the game now than he was in the past. That is partly based on how we used him.”
Early in Crawford’s career he was used more as a long reliever and then he later became a starter. Lee feels that played a little into his ability to go longer and deep into ballgames.
“I think now that he had that full year last year of being a starter, he is physically and mentally prepared to go deeper into a ballgame now and that is why we decided to go with him in Game 1.”
For his career, Crawford is 15-2 on the mound with a 3.07 ERA. His 88.2-win percentage is the second best in Clemson history. All of that gives the righty the confidence he can be the Tigers’ Friday night pitcher.
“That helps a lot. Even my experience in the bullpen helped me a lot,” he said. “Playing people and really good hitters and stuff like that and competing against people like (Evan) McKendry from Miami. You know? People like that.
“It is going to be tough, but I feel like I am a competitor, though. I will get on the mound and give us the best chance for our team. I kind of look forward to it.”
Crawford admits he felt like he put himself in position to win the opening-day assignment with the way he has been working and pitching throughout the off-season.
“I have been throwing it really well, lately,” he said. “Once I came back during the spring, I had to make a little adjustment to my off-speed pitches and stuff like that. That is kind of what I did during Christmas break and stuff like that.”
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