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Garrett Crochet will start for the Chicago White Sox on opening day

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Garrett Crochet met with pitching coach Ethan Katz on Sunday.

The left-hander came into spring training attempting to make the move from the bullpen into the Chicago White Sox rotation and had heard beforehand that the coaches had exciting news for him.

“I thought it was that I made the rotation,” Crochet said.

Not only is the left-hander in the rotation, he will be the starting pitcher on opening day against the Detroit Tigers on March 28 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

White Sox manager Pedro Grifol announced the decision Monday.

“It’s humbling and very gratifying,” Crochet, 24, said. “Worked my tail off this spring. Had a lot of solid veterans to lean on this camp. Was able to put together a good couple of outings.

“I feel like I earned it and I feel like I’ve been waiting for this moment but didn’t really know if it would come. So to be awarded this, it’s a huge honor.”

Crochet said his initial reaction was, “Very shocked, to say the least.”

“For this to happen, I don’t want to say unexpected, because I knew I was putting together a good string of outings, but very humbling,” Crochet said.

Crochet has been one of the standout players at camp, allowing no runs and seven hits in four outings in his one start. He has 12 strikeouts and no walks in nine innings.

“The most important thing to this is his will and drive to be a starter,” Grifol said. “That’s where it all starts. They’ve got to have that drive and that will and that confidence to say, ‘You know what, this is what I want to do. This is who I am.’ And then him going out there and working for that. It was a combination of a lot of things, physical, mental, health. Just everything.

“He’s gone out there and done it. It’s not just the physical thing, it’s the mental thing and his mind, he believes he can do this thing and do it at a very high level. That’s probably one of the main reasons — if not the main reason — why we’re naming him our opening day starter. He worked like it in the offseason and he’s performed like it.”

Crochet has 72 career big-league appearances, all in relief. He gained the nod for opening day in the aftermath of last week’s trade that sent ace Dylan Cease to the San Diego Padres.

He will be the ninth major-league pitcher in the last 110 years to make his first career start on opening day, reported Sarah Langs of MLB. The most recent was the Texas RangersTanner Scheppers in 2014, and the list includes Fernando Valenzuela pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981. The last White Sox pitcher to make a starting debut on opening day was Roy Patterson, who pitched a complete-game win on April 24, 1901, as reported by Christopher Kamka of Marquee.

“You come in with that curiosity that you have a big-time arm coming into the starting fold,” Grifol said. “You’re curious to see how it’s going to pan out. He went out there and performed, pounded the strike zone. His stuff was electric and he’s going to get the opportunity.”

The Sox selected Crochet with the No. 11 pick in the 2020 draft and he joined the major-league team down the stretch of the pandemic-shortened season, displaying a fastball clocked at 100 mph.

He had a 2.82 ERA in 54 relief appearances in 2021 and prepared to expand his role in 2022 before tearing his left ulnar collateral ligament and undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Crochet made 13 relief outings in 2023, missing some time with left shoulder inflammation.

He’s been overpowering at times this spring. Highlights included striking out Shohei Ohtani in the superstar’s spring debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Feb. 27 at Camelback Ranch and Mike Trout in his next outing March 3 against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe, Ariz.

“This is a much refined Garrett Crochet,” Grifol said. “He’s got now the velo, the presence, the command, the stamina, the work, the mindset. I remember him being really dominant coming out of the bullpen (facing him as a coach) with Kansas City and I remember last year, he had that presence and mindset, but the stuff wasn’t like it is right now.

“It’s been just a process for him. He’s morphed those together and he’s getting an opportunity right now.”

Crochet has a career 2.71 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 73 innings. His career-high for innings in a season is 54 1/3, which occurred in 2021.

As far as monitoring innings, Grifol said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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Crochet pitched a career-high three innings on April 25, 2021, against the Texas Rangers. His longest outing this spring is three innings, which occurred in his last appearance March 14 against the Angels at Camelback Ranch.

“For me, it’s just attack each batter like it’s the last batter I’m going to face,” Crochet said of inning expectation for the opener. “We’ll kind of see. That was kind of when I started in the past, that was the story for me, one batter at a time and don’t look too far ahead in the game.

“If you are trying to save pitches, that’s when you are going to get beat.”

Crochet made 13 starts during college at Tennessee. Now comes the opportunity in the majors.

“The competitor felt confident I had a chance to win a (starting) job,” Crochet said. “We’ve got a lot of guys throwing well, a lot of good arms with a lot of experience. It was a call that was never really mine to make.

“But, I was hopeful. And to be awarded this is very humbling.”