They’re running out of time, but the Rays haven’t given up on Jesse Crain throwing a pitch for them this season.
Acquired from the White Sox in late July while on the disabled list for a shoulder injury, Crain remains on the DL six weeks later. However, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times he threw a bullpen session today without any problems and could be cleared to pitch a simulated game against live hitters later this week.
Tampa Bay knew the risks with Crain at the time of the trade and got him at a discount because of it, so at this point any contribution from him down the stretch (and perhaps in the playoffs) is probably viewed as a bonus. Crain had a 0.74 ERA and 46/11 K/BB ratio in 37 innings for the White Sox before being shut down, making his first All-Star at age 31 with free agency right around the corner.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.