“I really like Will [Crowe],” Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters last week, after the 25-year-old right-hander was added to the team’s taxi squad for the last leg of the club’s road trip in Atlanta. “I saw him in Spring Training. He’s got good stuff. I think he can help us here in the future.”
The future arrived quickly.
Saturday afternoon, with a 29th spot available on the D.C. roster for the second game of their doubleheader with the Miami Marlins, Crowe’s contract was selected and he was brought up to start against the Nationals’ NL East rivals.
Crowe, a 2017 2nd Round pick out of the University of South Carolina, finished up his 2019 season with a 3.87 ERA, a 3.15 FIP, 22 walks (2.08 BB/9), and 89 Ks (8.40 K/9) in 16 starts and 95 1⁄3 innings pitched for the Double-A Harrisburg, then struggled at Triple-A Fresno, putting up a 6.17 ERA, a 5.64 FIP, 26 walks (4.33 BB/9), and 41 Ks (6.83 K/9) in 10 starts and 54 IP for the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate.
After a Grapefruit League outing in February, before Spring Training 1.0 was shut down in mid-March, Crowe said he was determined to take advantage of any opportunities he got this season to show he belonged and could respond to any challenges.
“I’m here to show them I’m ready and available, and the moment’s not too big,” Crowe said.
“And I’m ready for that, so just let it all play out, it’s going to play out eventually, and just keeping going one day at a time and just keep going.”
Martinez said he had good reports on Crowe from the Alternate Training Site down in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and he was looking forward to seeing what the young starter would do in his MLB debut.
“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.
“He’s been throwing the ball really well. He was built up to about 85-90 pitches, and we like the way he was throwing, so he gets an opportunity this time to come up here and start the second game.”
“He has the complete package,” Nationals’ minor league pitching coordinator Brad Holman told Federal Baseball’s David Driver before tonight’s game. “His curveball is above average.”
“He has a whole arsenal of pitches,” Holman added. “His change has been his bread and butter.”
How did his stuff play against the Fish?
Crowe tossed two scoreless against the Marlins to start his MLB debut, but a missed pop off third base with two out in the bottom of the third inning extended the frame, and a walk to Matt Joyce was followed by Corey Dickerson’s two-run home run to right on a 1-1 fastball up in the zone that went way out and put the Marlins up, 2-1.
Crowe returned to the mound in the fourth, and gave up one and two-out singles before he was lifted, and both runners he left on ended up scoring in what ended up a 5-3 win for the Marlins.
Wil Crowe’s Line: 3.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 Ks, 1 HR, 64 P, 34 S, 1/4 GO/FO.
Crowe mixed things up with five different pitches, and though he didn’t get many swings and misses, with just four total, and probably wanted to throw more strikes, he impressed his manager and teammates with his poise on the mound.
“I thought he pitched really well,” Martinez said after the loss. “He fell behind a couple times to hitters, but he came right back.
“He threw the ball well, we didn’t play good defense today. Should have made some of those plays. Those are easy plays to be made. But he threw the ball well.”
“I thought Wil did a good job,” shortstop Trea Turner said.
“He battled out there. It’s a different year, weird year, but he made some adjustments in the middle of the game, which I liked seeing. He’s good at picking off to each base, which I liked seeing. For your first start I felt like he was pretty poised out there. It’s just a matter of making pitches, and he’s going to be good for us.”
How did Crowe assess his own outing? And what was he hoping to do?
“Just compete,” Crowe said. “Give us a chance to win. You know, that’s my job is to throw strikes and give us a chance to win.
“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 [Dickerson] 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.”
“It was my first outing in the big leagues, it’s behind me,” Crowe added when asked what he would take away from his debut.
“I was jittery, I think I was like 20 balls, 20 strikes at one point.
“Commanding the zone early and throwing strikes early, I think that’s when I got out of the third inning or second inning, I went straight up to Yan [Gomes], and I told him, ‘It’s the first pitch. When I throw the first pitch for strikes, I’m a 10x better pitcher.’ 1-0 is much harder to get through than 0-1. So, for me it’s first-pitch strikes, and early on the game I didn’t do that, and once I kind of settled in I felt like I was able to spin pitches over or throw them for strikes and get guys to do what I want them to do.”
The experience of his MLB debut as a whole, from learning he got the call to walking off the mound?
“Just surreal,” Crowe said. “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.”