Programming note: Giants Insider Andrew Baggarly is in Arizona; check back for his coverage throughout spring training and watch SportsNet Central nightly at 6 and 10:30 p.m. for all the day’s MLB news.
MESA, Ariz. – Here in big league camp for the first time, Giants top prospect Kyle Crick is trying to soak up knowledge from every corner of the clubhouse.
He talked with Buster Posey about pitch sequences. He talked with Hunter Pence about the power of positive thinking.
He talked to Tim Lincecum … about growing a mustache?
“I had a little trouble, he had a little trouble,” said the smiling, smooth-cheeked Crick, who probably didn’t get a shaving kit as a gift when he turned 21 in November. “So we talked about it, tried to figure it out.”
There’s a lot Crick still has to figure out before he’s ready for the big leagues. After all, he has averaged 5.5 walks per nine innings over parts of three seasons since the Giants drafted him 49th overall in 2011. Compare that to Madison Bumgarner, who averaged just 1.9 walks per nine.
Bumgarner, despite being far more advanced out of high school, still threw 355 innings in the minor leagues. Crick, who missed time with an oblique strain last season, has logged just 187 innings.
He hopes to get another 160 to 180 under his belt this year, presumably at Double-A Richmond. He began his season, unofficially at least, with two innings in a B game against a lineup of Cubs top prospects in Mesa on Monday.
Crick struggled with location in his first inning, allowing a run on two hits (one was a bunt single) and a stolen base while throwing plenty of heat at the letters. He settled down in his second inning while striking out the side, including a couple of fastballs he blew past top hitting prospects Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler.
“Even though it was a B game, it was still a major league game to me,” Crick said. “I was disappointed I couldn’t get a grip faster. I was worrying about hitting spots. … In the second inning, I just started throwing the ball and not worrying about where it ended up.”
Crick has no peer in the Giants system in terms of arm strength. He’s able to maintain velocity with a crackling, mid-90s fastball that overpowered Cal League hitters when he returned from the oblique injury last season.
He said his best secondary pitch became his changeup last year, when he stopped throwing his slider in order to focus on refining it. He’d like his curveball to be less slurvy and his slider to be less like a cutter.
Mostly, though, he knows the first and most important step is fastball location.
“I’m working on it,” he said, “just like everyone else here.”
Crick said vice president Dick Tidrow advised him to shorten his stride when he has trouble getting his fastball down in the zone. If he can get his front foot down, then his arm has time to catch up.
“We worked on it in the bullpen, but it’s easy in the bullpen,” Crick said. “On the mound, you’ve got to be your own coach.”