Crawford inconsistent to start junior year

Crawford inconsistent to start junior year

Jonathon Crawford was the key to Florida's pitching staff as it earned a third-straight College World Series appearance in 2012. Heading into his draft-eligible season in 2013, the junior right-hander was expected to take the next step and be the ace of the staff. It hasn't gone that way through four starts, but Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan is starting to see things change.

The velocity and command have improved during each start this season for Jonathon Crawford. He pitched against Duke on opening night at 90-92 mph with his fastball and struggled to command his pitches. The velocity has started to come back, getting up to 94 mph on Friday against Indiana, but the results haven't matched it.

Crawford is 0-2 with 4.22 ERA this season. The record is largely because of hard luck -- Florida has scored just eight runs in his four starts this year -- but that isn't an excuse for the way Crawford has thrown. In 21.1 innings, Crawford is allowing hitter's a .253 average against him and 10 earned runs.

"I haven't pitched to the best of my ability at all," Crawford said on Thursday. "I think I can improve on a lot of things, which are jumping ahead with my pitches."

When he isn't getting ahead of hitters, Crawford gets into long at-bats and drives his pitch count up. He's averaging just over five innings per start, not exactly what the Gators want out of their ace. It has been a frustration for O'Sullivan since the first weekend of the year, and it hasn't gotten much better.

In fact, the Gators are still waiting for a starting pitcher to earn a win this season.

"As a staff, we have to work deeper into games and give our bullpen a rest," Crawford said.

When the velocity comes all the way back, Crawford should take the next step. He consistently sat between 94-97 mph with the fastball last season and earned his way into conversation for the top half of the first-round in this year's MLB Draft. His performance this year hasn't matched that talk, and Crawford admitting to overthinking things "at times" this season.

The velocity looks like it is starting to come, too. Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan was happy with the way that Crawford's bullpen looked on Wednesday and thinks he's close to getting back to his 2012 season.

"He's not far off," O'Sullivan said. "We haven't given him a whole lot of run support on Friday nights, so every pitch has been an intense one. He hasn't had a whole lot of room to breathe. I would think that he's going to be better as the season goes on."

Crawford feels it, too. It happened last season, and even though Crawford wasn't in the rotation to start 2012, he felt his velocity come back as the weather got warmer and when his arm got more in the routine of the season.

"I felt a lot better last time out," Crawford said. "My arm strength was better and my recovery as day wasn't as sore. As the season progresses, my arm is just getting stronger and stronger.

"The closer you get to midseason form, your body gets used to the season."

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