Davey Martinez’s advice for Wil Crowe, before the 2017 2nd Round pick made his MLB debut in Washington, D.C. on August 22nd this past season, was simple.
“I spoke to him this morning already and told him, ‘You be you, and pound that strike zone and get as many outs as you can for us,’” Martinez said.
Crowe, who turned 26 in September, had been working out at the Alternate Training Site in Fredericksburg, VA before he was called up to make his first start for the big league club in the nation’s capital.
He lasted just 3 2⁄3 innings in his first appearance, giving up six hits (one home run), two walks, and four runs, two earned, in a 64-pitch outing in a 5-3 loss to Miami.
“Just surreal,” Crowe said of his first big experience. “It was like a whirlwind of emotions.
“From telling my wife and my family, and just going through it all with like being able to tell them that my dreams came true and everything that I’ve worked for so far is here. It’s a good feeling, and you know, didn’t sleep much, but I got enough to come out and perform and I had a good time, I had a lot of fun, I soaked it in, and I was excited out there.”
Asked to his assess his own performance, Crowe told reporters, “... early I felt like I didn’t do the greatest of jobs, but I was able to make some good pitches late in counts and get guys out. Once I settled in I feel like in the third and the fourth, I only really think I made one bad pitch in the zone, and the guy hit it out. It’s the big leagues, that’s what they’re paid to do. I felt all in all it was a decent outing and I’m ready for the next one.”
Crowe got two other opportunities to start, but struggled in those outings, giving up eight hits (four home runs), six walks, and nine runs total in a combined 4 2⁄3 IP (17.36 ERA), with opposing hitters putting up a .381/.536/1.048 line against him.
One thing that stuck out for his manager, Martinez said after what ended up being Crowe’s final outing of the 2020 campaign, was the fact that he struggled to throw strikes, with his 37.6% Zone% (pitches inside the zone divided by total pitches), well below the MLB average, (48.4%).
“Here’s a guy that was known in the minor leagues to throw strikes,” Martinez said. “I think — you get a young guy up here sometimes and they try to miss bats.
“That’s really not who he is. He pounds the strike zone and keeps the ball down, elevates when he needs to, has a good changeup.
“When you fall behind and you’re behind hitters, we talk about it all the time, these guys are good. And when you have to throw a strike, good hitters don’t miss.”
Struggling as he did in his first taste of major league action, the manager said, could end up helping Crowe going forward.
“Sometimes you’ve got to take a beating up here but you’ve got to — the ones that learn and process everything, they come back and they figure it out and they get better from it. So, I expect that from Wil, I really do.
Congratulations to Wil Crowe on being named Pitcher of the Year in the Carolina League!— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 14, 2018
He went 11-0 with a 2.69 ERA over 87 innings of work. pic.twitter.com/jtC6mFJBng
“He’s been successful in the minor leagues. I think right now my main focus with him and I’ll talk to him tomorrow about it, is getting ahead of the hitters, throwing strike one, try not to miss bats.
“I said, ‘You can pitch here, but you can’t pitch behind. It’s hard to do it. And you can’t give free bases out to guys. The walks are going to hurt you. So, he’ll learn that.
“He understands, and we’ll have a conversation tomorrow and we’re just going to continue to try to get him better.”
“This hasn’t been an issue for me,” Crowe said of his struggles throwing strikes.
“I pound the zone, I go after guys, and it’s nothing that I feel, it’s just happening, and like I said, it’s something I’m working on, I’m not used to it, so usually I can just go out there and compete, and I’m trying to compete and I don’t have everything in sync right now. It’s made it a little tough on me.”