Twice in his career, Casey Crosby has lost nearly an entire season due to injury. When he's been healthy, however, he's been dominant.
Crosby continued to show when he can do at full strength on Saturday, allowed three hits over six scoreless innings in the Double-A Erie SeaWolves' 2-1 loss to the visiting Reading Phillies.
The 22-year-old left-hander, who struck out four, has given up one run over his last 18 innings to lower his ERA from 4.55 to 3.02.
"It feels incredible," Crosby said. "Last year was very frustrating because I knew my ability, knew what I could do, and I couldn't do it. It was really frustrating for me. This year, getting off to a good start, having success, I feel like I'm back."
Crosby suffered from elbow and forearm discomfort last year and missed all but three starts as a result. Selected by the Tigers in the fifth round of the 2007 Draft, the Illinois native didn't make his pro debut until August 2008 because of Tommy John surgery.
In 2009, his lone injury-free season, Crosby flashed his talent. Pitching for Class A West Michigan, he posted a 2.41 ERA in 24 starts and averaged better than a strikeout per inning.
Ranked by MLB.com as the Tigers' No. 4 prospect, Crosby believes he's finally kicked the injury bug.
"I feel like I'm pretty much free of it," he said. "I don't want to think about it, obviously. I know how to take care of my body and get my body ready to throw. I've come a long way since coming out of high school. I'm more mature with what I need to do in preparation for games and even practice."
Crosby came out strong Saturday, retiring the first five batters he faced. After Derrick Mitchell singled through the left side, the southpaw picked him off to end the frame.
The only time Crosby allowed more than one runner in an inning was the sixth, when Michael Spidale and Matt Rizzotti delivered consecutive two-out singles. He got out of trouble by getting Cody Overbeck to bouncer into a fielder's choice on his final pitch of the night.
"I'm just calming down, relaxing and trusting my abilities," Crosby said. "I'm not trying to do too much, be too spectacular. I'm just going out here and trying to make good pitches and forcing contact early in the counts. Once it gets late in the count, I try to get that out pitch. For the most part, I'm just throwing strikes and relaxing out there."
Zach Simons (0-1) relieved Crosby and took the loss after allowing two runs over 1 2/3 innings.
After pitching well through eight starts this season, Crosby plans to carry over that success by focusing on the things he can control.
"Just keep learning from my pitching coach, Ray Burris. Just letting everything happen," he said. "There are things that are out of your power. Just try to control whatever you can and let the rest take care of itself."