Checking in at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Kyle Crick is a big pitcher known for his power. But lately, the right-hander has turned his focus toward his off-speed pitches, particularly his changeup, and that work is beginning to pay off.
In his latest outing Thursday, the Giants' No. 15 prospect allowed only one hit and fanned 10 through seven innings to lead Class A Augusta to a 2-0 shutout of Greensboro. With those numbers, Crick established career highs in strikeouts and innings pitched.
The 19-year-old hit as high as 99 mph on the radar gun, but stayed mostly in between 94-98 with his fastball -- the best in his four-pitch repertoire. However, the more impressive feat may have been that Crick was able to produce those numbers by experimenting with the changeup, a pitch he didn't need much during his dominant days at Sherman High School in Texas.
"I think I threw eight, and five or six were for strikes," said Crick, a Giants' first-round pick (49th overall) in the 2011 Draft. "It was mainly to lefties, something to try to keep down and get them to roll over into outs. It was the most I've thrown in a game so far. I'm just trying to throw more and more each time."
After retiring the first six batters he faced, Crick gave up a single to James Wooster to lead off the third frame. It would be the Grasshoppers' last hit until the ninth inning. The 19-year-old right-hander collected himself to strike out the next two batters he faced -- both looking -- and begin a streak of nine consecutive outs.
Although he finished the night with only the one hit allowed, Crick said he wasn't worrying about a potential no-hitter.
"No, not at all," he said. "It was a full count, so I had to kind of throw a strike, something hittable. [Wooster] just got good wood on it and was able to put up back up the middle. Nothing you can do about that."
As good a barometer as hits allowed can be for the quality of an outing, the better measure when it comes to Crick starts may be the punchout. In four starts in which the Texas native has struck out eight batters or more, he has allowed only one run through 21 innings for a 0.43 ERA. In the other six starts, that number balloons to 5.88.
Crick, however, dismissed any notion that he focuses on racking up the strikeouts when he's on the hill.
"I'm not looking at that a whole lot," he said. "It takes more pitches to get a strikeout, and if you keep looking to get one, your pitch count goes up. I'm just trying to get outs however I can."
But with the personal bests in innings pitched and strikeouts, Crick had to take a little pride in his spot in the box score Thursday night.
"I was able to keep the pitch count down, and that obviously helped with the innings," he said. "The K's kind of just happened. But all in all, it was a good step for me."
Ben Thomas was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs for the GreenJackets. The first baseman has driven in four runs in his last two games.