Armed With New Changeup Grip, Hans Crouse Dominates In Morning Start
GREENSBORO, N.C — No one has ever doubted Hans Crouse's fastball or slider. The question has always been how his changeup will develop.
In his latest start, the Rangers' No. 1 prospect showed that third pitch is becoming a weapon for him.
Sporting a new changeup grip, Crouse pitched five shutout innings with one hit allowed, no walks and nine strikeouts to lead low Class A Hickory (Rangers) to a 5-0 win over Greensboro (Pirates) on April 10.
It was Crouse’s first win in seven career starts at low Class A, as well as a career high in strikeouts at the level.
"Just attacking early with my fastball, getting in on rigthties, away from lefties,” the 20-year-old righthander said. "I’ve been working really hard on a changeup lately and it was nice to see some results. Got a new grip going with it, so to be that comfortable with it in my first start using it, it was nice to see some good results with it.”
Crouse was electric from the outset. He struck out the side in the first inning, gave up a single to Zack Kone to lead off the second and didn’t allow another baserunner the rest of the day. He held 94-95 mph through his outing and allowed only one ball —Kone’s single—to leave the infield.
Facing Greensboro lineup with four lefthanded hitters, Crouse used his changeup more than his slider and kept it largely effective, with his best ones coming in at 83-86 mph and fading away from lefties.
For that, he credited his new grip.
"Just sliding my pinky up and my pointer finger and thumb aren’t touching each other,” Crouse said. "It’s a looser feel. I was kind of squeezing it beforehand.”
Crouse mixed in his slider at 77-80 mph as needed, and with three pitches working had no trouble maneuvering through Greensboro’s lineup.
In all, Crouse threw 45 of his 67 pitches for strikes and faced only one batter over the minimum.
"He does a good job of getting himself into a rhythm,” Hickory manager Matt Hagen said. "When he got himself into a rhythm right there he was able to just take the ball and get back on the mound. We preach tempo and that was a great example of tempo.”
With the tempo in hand and a third pitch at his disposal, the demonstrative Crouse spent the game smiling, pumping his fist and energizing his teammates. They responded by scoring three runs in the fifth inning to give him the win.
"That’s part of what makes him great,” Hagen said. "He’s a fierce competitor. When he takes the ball, it’s his day to shine. It’s the Hans Crouse show. We love watching him. We love being a part of it. To rob him of that is to take away some of the essence of who he is. He’s learning kind of where that mix is for him and he’s doing a great job of it. The guys playing behind him feed off it. The hitters feed of it. Hans is bringing the juice, and it’s contagious.”
The contagion kept Hickory sharp despite a 10:45 am local start and moved the Crawdads to 6-1 to start the season.
For Crouse, it was an outing that cemented the bright possibilities ahead.
"Just to have no walks and then have a changeup, especially working it off my heater,” Crouse said, "it’s going to play really big for me.”
NEWS AND NOTES
— Pirates' No. 13 prospect Steven Jennings pitched five innings with five hits and three runs allowed, one walk and four strikeouts. He pitched four scoreless innings before his stuff got a little less crisp in the fifth, and Hickory pounced with four hits and three runs in the frame. Jennings sat 88-91 mph on his fastball and heavily used both his 75-77 mph curveball and 80-83 mph slider. His breaking balls were distinct early but began to blend together in the fifth, which is when he ran into trouble.
— Rangers' No. 2 prospect Julio Pablo Martinez went 2-for-4 with two singles and an RBI. He used the whole field with a single to center in his first at-bat and single to left-center in his third at-bat, but he got thrown out on the bases both times. He was caught stealing in the first inning and was thrown out trying to stretch his single into a double in the fifth to end the inning. He posted a run time of 4.1 seconds down the first-base line, a 60-grade time out of the lefthanded batter’s box.
— Rangers' No. 19 prospect Chris Seise struck out three times but impressed when he got down the line in 4.1 seconds on an infield single, an 70-grade run time for a righthanded batter.