Crawford Finds His Niche For Jays

TORONTO — Lefthander Evan Crawford has found a home in the bullpen.
After Crawford struggled as a starter at the beginning of his professional career, the Blue Jays made him a reliever during the 2010 season at low Class A Lansing, and he finished the year at high Class A Dunedin.

He has been a reliever ever since, and last season at Double-A New Hampshire he went 3-5, 3.35, with two saves in 45 appearances for the Eastern League champions.

"He found his niche in the bullpen," assistant general manager Tony LaCava said. "He was a big part of that championship in New Hampshire last year. A lefthander with an above-average fastball and a breaking ball that we feel is going to be an out pitch for him. We think he profiles well in the bullpen."

The 25-year-old followed his performance with New Hampshire with 11 games in the Arizona Fall League, where he was 0-1, 3.18.

He has shown enough to earn a spot on the 40-man roster. He also was one of the seven minor leaguers brought to Toronto in January to prepare for a possible big league callup in the next couple of seasons.

"I just scuffled quite a bit as a starter and I was just kind of thrown into the relief role," said Crawford, a 2008 eighth-round draft pick from Auburn. "I tried to embrace it as much as I could and learn from it.

"I think a lot of it is the mentality of being ready to compete every single day. Just knowing you're going to come in and kind of be a bulldog and giving everything you've got for an inning or two. It's kind of exciting to me. I enjoy it. Fastball, curveball, cutter, that's my main repertoire and I try to keep it simple."

Crawford will likely start the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, but he enjoyed his taste of Toronto in January.

"I'm a small-town Alabama guy," he said. "Coming to a big city like this, I stood by the window for an hour I think when l got to my hotel room, looking at all the tall buildings and counting the lights."


• Catcher Travis d'Arnaud said he felt no pain in his thumb after October surgery for a torn ligament. He injured the thumb playing for Team USA in the World Cup in Panama. He has resumed lifting weights, swinging and catching.

• Outfielder Darin Mastroianni, 26, was designated for assignment after the signing of reliever Francisco Cordero.