Eyeing 'pen role, Crockett learning from vets

Lefty in mix for roster spot along with Thatcher, Detwiler, Gorzelanny

Eyeing 'pen role, Crockett learning from vets

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Whether Kyle Crockett begins the season on the Major League roster or in the Minors is still to be determined. What's not in question, however, is the Indians' belief in the 24-year-old left-hander, who pitched 1 2/3 perfect innings in the Tribe's 7-6 win over the Royals on Wednesday.

"Crockett's a smart kid; regardless of what we end up doing to our roster, we really like this kid," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's young, he moved quick. He had some hiccups last year, but there's a lot to like. Whether he makes the club or not, we like this kid."

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Crockett is one of several -- along with Joe Thatcher, Ross Detwiler and Tom Gorzelanny -- fighting for a coveted spot in the Indians' bullpen. While the three veterans all have experience in their favor, Crockett is the only one of the four already on the Tribe's roster.

Thatcher, Detwiler and Gorzelanny have a combined 28 years of Major League experience, but are all in camp as non-roster invitees.

To make a tough roster battle even tougher, it appears the Indians will only have enough space for one left-handed reliever.

"My guess is, I bet when we start the season, we're going to have a seven-man bullpen," Francona said. "I don't know if we're going to be able to [carry two lefties]."

However, the decision-making process is out of Crockett's control, so the young left-hander is doing his best to just focus on his job and not worry about where he will be when Cleveland opens the 2016 season.

"I don't approach it any differently," Crockett said. "I feel like every year is going to be a battle. I mean, if you come out and don't perform, you're not going to make the team, especially a guy in my position that has options left."

Crockett appeared in 31 games for the Indians last season and posted a 4.08 ERA in 17 2/3 innings. Admittedly, he struggled with mechanics, something he believes he now has under control.

"I feel really good, mechanics feel good where I'm at right now," Crockett said. "I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm just going to go out there and do my best every time out."

So far this spring, Crockett's outings have been mixed, although he did retire all five batters he faced in Wednesday's game.

"There have been a couple outings where he's been the Crockett you thought you knew when he got called up, working ahead, quick inning, nice and efficient," Francona said. "There have been some others where he's fallen behind, left some balls up to righties, and it seemed like they got a pretty good look at him."

Whether or not Crockett makes the team remains to be seen, but regardless of the outcome, this camp has been a beneficial one for his growth as a player. As someone with just 74 Major League games under his belt, Crockett has done his best to pick the brains and learn from the trio of veterans, who have a combined 885 games of experience.

"We're not out here just at each other's throats trying to win a spot," Crockett said. "We learn a lot from each other. I've learned a lot from these guys because they've been doing it a long time, and I'm glad to have them in camp with me because I've watched them and learned a lot."

William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.