TAMPA, Fla. — In his first start of spring training, Phillies right-handed pitcher Hans Crouse found trouble immediately. The 23-year-old was facing a lineup as tough as he’d ever faced, featuring many of the Yankees’ regulars: DJ LeMahieu leading off, followed by Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, and Giancarlo Stanton. Crouse didn’t make it past the No. 6 batter, Aaron Hicks, before manager Joe Girardi pulled him out, after just two-thirds of an inning.
The journey from LeMahieu on was a bumpy one for Crouse on Monday. The Yankees infielder knocked a line-drive double to right field in the top of the first. That was followed by a Gallo walk, a Stanton double that came off the bat at 109.5 mph, and a Hicks double. By the time Girardi took him out, Crouse had allowed three hits, three runs (all earned) and a walk. He struck out one.
“I didn’t think he was sharp with his command today,” Girardi said of Crouse’s outing in the 5-2 loss. “You’ve got to throw strikes and be ahead in the count, and have the ability to expand the count, and he had a difficult time doing that. It was command more than anything for me.”
Crouse was acquired from the Texas Rangers as part of the trade that brought Kyle Gibson to the Phillies last season. Fangraphs lists him as the organization’s eighth overall prospect. He would probably project as their sixth or seventh starter right now. For a team that is short on pitching depth — especially with Zack Wheeler looking at what could be a delayed start — Crouse is an important piece, either out of the bullpen or the rotation (or both). He hasn’t faced much big league hitting yet — only seven innings worth last season with the Phillies — so these outings are especially valuable for him.
“Definitely the toughest lineup I’ve faced in my career for sure,” Crouse said. “You’ve got a lot of superstars over there, but at the same time, they’re people, too, and any given day, anything can happen. I know my stuff’s good enough to play up here; I’ve seen it play up here. I’ve just got to be confident and trust that.”
His goal Monday was to fill up the zone, and see out how his cutter would play against a righty-heavy lineup. In the minor leagues, and in the Arizona Fall League, Crouse says that the cutter-slider combination generated some whiffs for him. Of course, those lineups weren’t as tough as the Yankees’, but Crouse did take away some positives from his outing, mainly in the two outs he got — a strikeout of Josh Donaldson on an outside fastball, and ground out against Aaron Judge on a cutter.
The takeaway, Crouse said, is to “not give them too much credit. It’s obviously easier said than done when you see the names in that lineup. But, you know, at the same time, I got two really good hitters out who have been MVPs in this league before, and I’ve got to take that away as a positive, and I’ve got to know what I can do to get better at the same time.”
For the most part, he was in the 90-92 mph range Monday. Spring training starts can be fickle, but Crouse hopes that he can build on the experience, and potentially contribute to the big league club in 2022.
Girardi said that Odúbel Herrera tweaked something in his side a few days ago, which is why he hasn’t appeared in games. Girardi said Herrera is “better” and that no further medical tests are needed, but the Phillies are making sure they don’t rush him.
After the game, the Phillies sent three players to minor league camp: catcher Logan O’Hoppe, outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz, and infielder Luis Garcia.
Outfielder Kyle Schwarber held his introductory press conference with the Phillies on Monday. Right now, the plan is for Nick Castellanos to hold his presser on Wednesday. Girardi said that Schwarber might get into a game by Friday, but they’re playing it by ear.
Phillies closer Corey Knebel had a near-perfect inning on Monday. He hit 96 mph a few times on the radar gun, and allowed no hits, no walks, no runs, and tossed one strikeout.