Crockett's results on mound belie youthfulness

Young left-hander showed poise in quick rise

Crockett's results on mound belie youthfulness

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Scott Atchison is the recipient of an endless stream of old jokes, stemming from his graying hair and long history in professional baseball. The veteran Indians reliever has fun with the running gag, especially with youngster Kyle Crockett a few lockers down from him right now.

"What year were you born?" the 38-year-old Atchison asked Crockett on Monday morning. "1991? That was a bad year for me."

Crockett laughed and shook his head.

"I get a couple thrown at me each day," he said. "I guess it's a good thing to get the young jokes instead of the old jokes. They all get on me a lot. They'll throw little one-liners out there."

The 23-year-old Crockett is young in years and experience, but he rose swiftly through Cleveland's farm system and earned a role in the Major League bullpen last season. Crockett was the first player taken by any team in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft to reach the big leagues, making the jump straight from Double-A Akron to Cleveland last May.

Crockett's Major League debut

Crockett quickly gained the trust of Indians manager Terry Francona, who noted recently that the left-hander might eventually be given even more responsibility out of the 'pen.

"When I say 'eventually,' I mean like April or May. Not 'eventually' like 2018," Francona said with a smile. "He throws the ball where he wants to. For a young kid, he doesn't beat himself, and that's a little bit rare, especially for a kid with his progression to the Major Leagues."

In 85 professional games over the past two seasons, Crockett has fashioned a 1.03 ERA with 83 strikeouts and 16 walks in 79 innings between the Minors and Majors. The lefty posted a 1.80 ERA in 43 appearances (30 innings) for the Indians last year, ending with 28 strikeouts against eight walks.

As things currently stand, the Indians' bullpen projects to include Marc Rzepczynski and Nick Hagadone, but Francona has made it clear that he likes having three lefties in the fold. Crockett would be a top candidate for the third spot, while non-roster veteran Scott Downs is also in the mix.

This is technically Crockett's first Major League Spring Training, but he said the experience in the big leagues last year has gone a long way.

"It's actually pretty awesome," Crockett said, "because I came in knowing everybody and everybody knows me. I don't have to go around and meet everybody. It's a little more comfortable. I'm a little more relaxed in here."

Francona thought Crockett looked a little older this spring, too.

"He got his driver's license and he's ready to go," joked the manager.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.