2011 is a crucial year in Casey Crosby's career.
Blessed with a fastball that reaches the upper 90s, Crosby was drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 Draft by the Tigers. Forgoing a scholarship to the University of Illinois, Crosby signed for a $748,000 bonus. Shortly after, he underwent Tommy John surgery and didn't make his pro debut until August 2008, when he tossed 4 2/3 innings for the Gulf Coast Tigers.
The Illinois native put himself on the map with a stellar 2009, going 10-4 with a 2.42 ERA in 24 starts for West Michigan. Crosby limited Midwest League batters to a .197 average and was selected to play in the league's All-Star Game. Despite pitching only 104 2/3 innings, the 6-foot-5 left-hander was 12th in the league with 117 strikeouts.
Crosby headed into 2010 flying high. Expected to open the year with Class A Advanced Lakeland, he once again had his season ruined by elbow and forearm discomfort, and he was limited to three starts in the Gulf Coast League. Heading into 2011, Crosby is ready to prove he's healthy and worth the wait.
MiLB.com: How frustrating was it to not be able to follow up your excellent 2009 campaign in 2010?
Casey Crosby: It was very disappointing. It was hard for me because, at that point, I knew what I could do, and being unable to perform -- that was just a huge disappointment. I just wanted to show everyone that I could perform at the next level.
MiLB.com: What's the most frustrating part of missing most of 2010?
Crosby: Just the fact that I'm not able to show what I can do, not only other people but myself. You see how good you are, but you also see you're unable to do it all the time. Last year was just very frustrating and it took its toll on me mentally. Taking this offseason and getting my confidence back heading into Spring Training was a big thing, because I know what I can do.
MiLB.com: What are your goals for 2011?
Crosby: Obviously they are to pitch the whole season and make every start that I'm supposed to. Also I want to continue improving my mental game and my overall performance on the mound. The main thing is mentally I want to be able to handle anything that comes to me in 2011.
MiLB.com: Do you fear you're going to get a reputation as a pitcher who is always hurt?
Crosby: That's something you don't want to think about. You don't want to think about injuries when you're playing. When it comes to reputation and being hurt, you just want to take care of yourself and do what you have to do. If people perceive me as a guy that does get hurt that's fine, but I believe my future will not show that, and I have to believe that.
MiLB.com: What is your favorite off-day activity?
Crosby: If I have an off day, you'll probably see me at the movies. The last movie I saw was Hall Pass and I thought it was really funny, absolutely hilarious. My favorite movie is probably Dumb and Dumber. I'm a fan of comedies and Jim Carrey. Dumb and Dumber -- the first time I saw it I never laughed so hard in my life.
MiLB.com: Since you grew up a Cubs fan, were you grateful to be drafted by a non-rival team? Is getting to play close to home a big deal for you?
Crosby: I really didn't care. If I got drafted by the Cardinals, I don't care -- it's still an amazing feeling. Hopefully in the future, I'll get a good crack at the White Sox. Definitely, I was in West Michigan in 2009, and it's only about three-and-a-half hours away. My family came and saw me quite a bit, especially my grandma and dad. My grandma is 83, 84 years old, but she still traveled three to four hours to see her grandson play. That's a pretty cool feeling.
MiLB.com: What's the best advice you've ever received?
Crosby: The best advice I've received is to phase out all the outside distractions and things you can't control. Just trust your ability and everything will take care of itself. Don't think 'If I throw this, what will happen?' And if you don't succeed, don't regret what you did. I just remember someone telling me that and I just stuck with it.
MiLB.com: If you hadn't been a baseball player, what do you think you would have ended up doing?
Crosby: Something in business, like business financing. I like dealing with numbers and handling banking stuff. I'd probably be going to school for business.
MiLB.com: What do you think your best pitch is, and what pitch do you think needs the most work?
Crosby: It's hard to go against a fastball, but my curveball is something that I can finally locate and it's something that is my out pitch. It's close, but I'm still going to go with my fastball. It's nice knowing that I have that in my repertoire. I feel like my changeup is improving; I feel like I'm throwing that for strikes more. That's something I'm going to use a lot this year. My four-seam fastball doesn't do a lot of dancing or moving; it's pretty much straight. I want to be able to throw my two-seam fastball and get an easy groundball out. My two-seamer isn't there yet, but it's something I am looking to improve on.
MiLB.com: You were 10-4, had an ERA of 2.41 and one of the best strikeout rates in the Minors in 2009. What stat from that season were you most proud of?
Crosby: I would have to say, if I didn't have that blister the last three weeks of the year, I'd have to say my innings pitched. Actually, the thing I'm most proud of were my second-half numbers. They were a lot better than my first half, my ERA and strikeouts per nine innings were so much better. I was coming back from Tommy John surgery, and the fact that I was improving more and more was huge to me.