On Saturday, Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford made his first start of the minor-league season for Double-A Portland.
Not only was it Crawford’s first start since August 24, 2019 with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but it was also his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019.
Matched up against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Blue Jays, at Hadlock Field over the weekend, the right-hander turned in a solid outing in his 2021 debut.
Over four innings of work, Crawford kept the Fisher Cats off the scoreboard while scattering just three hits and no walks to go along with five strikeouts on the afternoon. He retired 12 of the 15 hitters he faced in the process of throwing 54 pitches, 40 of which were strikes.
Crawford, who turned 25 last month, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University, the same school Chris Sale attended.
Signing with Boston for $125,000, the Florida native rose through the ranks and came into the 2019 season ranked as the Sox’ No. 22 prospect according to Baseball America.
Crawford opened the 2019 campaign with High-A Salem and posted a 3.39 ERA and a 77:30 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 14 starts and 69 innings of work to earn Carolina League All-Star honors.
Promoted to Portland on June 20, Crawford provided six quality innings in two of his first three Double-A starts. But after lasting just 2 2/3 innings in his fourth start on July 12, he was placed on the injured list.
From that point forward, Crawford would be sidelined for a month before making one start in his return from the IL in August before once again getting shelved for the remainder of the season.
As he explained to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith in February, Crawford had been experiencing elbow issues throughout the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He was able to pitch through it for a quite a while, but the discomfort got to a point in 2019 where he couldn’t throw every five days.
That led to an MRI on the hurler’s right elbow, which revealed a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament that would require Tommy John surgery.
Crawford had the procedure done by Dr. James Andrews on October 29. About nine months later, he began experiencing elbow pain again while getting back into his throwing program and would have to have bone spurs removed from his right elbow as a result.
Since then, Crawford has obviously been able to get back on track to the point where he was ready for the start of the minor-league season. His pitch arsenal still consists of a fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.
“One of my main focuses with the rehab throwing was to shorten my arm action a little bit,” Crawford told Smith. “I had this little hitch in 2019. I don’t really know how it developed. I didn’t have it in college. But I started having this little hitch. And that was really one of my main focuses: getting rid of that hitch and also trying to shorten my arm path just to make it more efficient so it can work a little bit easier.”
With that new arm action in tow, Crawford will look to re-establish himself as a legitimate pitching prospect that caught people’s attention in 2018 and 2019.
The 6-foot-1, 192 pound hurler out of Okeechobee, Fla. can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by November 20 in order to prevent that from happening.
(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Jill Brady/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)