The Red Sox have placed right-hander Kutter Crawford on the 15-day injured list with a left hamstring strain, the club announced prior to Friday’s series opener against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. In a corresponding move, fellow reliever Kaleb Ort was recalled from Triple-A Worcester.
Crawford strained his left hamstring in the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s 8-3 win over the Blue Jays. Perhaps it was due to pitching in wet and rainy conditions at Fenway Park, but the 27-year-old hurler appeared to be in visible discomfort after retiring Alejandro Kirk.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora was optimistic that Crawford would be able to avoid a stint on the injured list but that is no longer the case. Crawford, who was in Boston’s Opening Day rotation to begin the year, has since emerged as a versatile multi-inning reliever alongside Josh Winckowski.
Including Wednesday’s injury-shortened outing, Crawford has posted a 1.08 ERA and 3.66 FIP with 12 strikeouts to just one walk in five relief appearances (16 2/3 innings) dating back to April 13. He currently ranks in the 95th percentile in walk rate (2.9 percent) and the 98th percentile in chase rate (39.5 percent), per Baseball Savant.
Because his stint on the injured list was backdated to May 4, Crawford will not be eligible to be activated until May 19 at the earliest. In the meantime, Cora and Co. will need to find a way to cover the innings he would have been responsible for out of the bullpen.
Ort, meanwhile, was optioned to Worcester this past Sunday as a corresponding move for the activation of Chris Martin. The 31-year-old did not appear in a game for the WooSox and is now back with the big-league club less than a week after getting sent down.
After making his first career Opening Day back in March, Ort got his 2023 season off a tough start by posting a 7.30 ERA and 6.28 FIP with 12 strikeouts to six walks in 12 relief appearances (12 1/3 innings). He surrendered five runs (four earned) to the Orioles on April 25. Opponents are now batting .308/.383/.577 against him.
As those numbers indicate, Ort has struggled when it comes to missing bats so far this year. According to Baseball Savant, the hard-throwing righty ranks in the second percentile of all big-league pitchers in whiff rate (15.7 percent), the 21st percentile in chase rate (24 percent), the 35th percentile in barrel rate (9.3 percent), and the 37th percentile in hard-hit rate (41.9 percent). Not ideal.
With that being said, the Red Sox still remain intrigued by Ort’s arsenal, which at present consists of a mid-90s four-seam fastball, a mid-80s slider, and a low-90s changeup. Pitching coach Dave Bush alluded to as much when speaking with reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) last weekend.
“A lot of it is command,” Bush said. “Being able to put the ball where he wants to. We do like the stuff. We still like it. The fastball quality’s there. The slider shape is good. At times, the changeup has been a really effective pitch for him. But the command has been off. Pitching behind in the count and putting too many guys on base.
“The message we sent to him is to get down and work on his delivery so he can throw the ball where he wants to,” added Bush. “Because we do like the stuff. The stuff is still big. He’s still a power guy. But he has to command the ball where he wants to and throw more strikes. That was the directive when he went down and there’s some things to work on in Worcester to get back to being the guy we know he can be.”
(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)