CLEVELAND — As players discussed the situation surrounding Cleveland pitcher of Zach Plesac and his fractured right hand, which came from punching a mound, J.P. Crawford shook his head and replied, “You won’t ever win that fight punching things. It don’t matter how mad you are.”

Admittedly, Crawford has been angry enough about his recent struggles at the plate to want to punch something in frustration. Instead, he’s taken it out on a few helmets.

“It’s always the helmet’s fault,” he joked.

Obviously, the helmet isn’t the reason why he has six hits in his last 49 plate appearances. He has a .154/.277/.180 slash line in his last 13 games with a double, two RBI, seven walks and eight strikeouts.

When he singled to right field in his second plate appearance Saturday night, snapping an 0-for-12 stretch, Crawford hugged first-base coach Kristopher Negron for more than a few seconds in celebration

A strained pectoral muscle kept him out of the starting lineup for three days and he’s dealt with issues such as back spasms from a headfirst slide and recurrence of them, a lengthy suspension for the brawl in Anaheim, a jammed finger and illness throughout the season.

“He plays a lot of games and he’s out there a lot,” manager Scott Servais said. “That’s going to happen. We really need him out there in the middle of the field. He does a great job defensively, and he’s always in the right spot.”


After signing a 5-year, $50 million extension on the opening day of the season, Crawford posted an unsustainable .363/.454/.582 slash line over his first 26 games with 33 hits in 108 plate appearances, six doubles, a triple, four homers, 10 RBI, 13 walks and just 13 strikeouts.

Since then, he’s played in 93 games, posting a .223/.301/.281 slash line with 15 doubles, a triple, a homer, 23 RBI, 37 walks and 50 strikeouts.

Opposing scouts feel Crawford has been late getting into the hitting position for prolonged stretches, making his swing longer and slower.

“His timing is a little off,” Servais said. “There has been some pitches he should be hitting that he’s fouling off. He should be getting them in play. But the quality of the at-bats has still been there. He’ll take his walk. I’m not worried about J.P.”

Servais saw the frustration building in Crawford after some failed plate appearances and met with him Friday in Cleveland.

“I’ve said this to others, and I’ll say it to you guys,” Servais said. “If you look at all the players on our team and how they all fit together, J.P. plays a very big role here and it’s way more than what he does in the batter’s box. And it’s not just defense, it’s leadership in the middle of the field, it’s his voice in the clubhouse, it’s being the energy guy. He’s also like our ‘glue guy’ and it all kind of revolves around him.”


Servais reminded Crawford that his contributions extend beyond the batter’s box.

“It’s really important he understands what he brings to us and he can’t always get tied up in his batting average,” Servais said. “It’s not always about hits. It’s also the other things he brings to the game that allow us to win every night and just making sure he understands that as well.”

Servais knows they won’t get to the postseason without Crawford in the lineup.

“There’s not a big situation that comes up where I don’t say to myself, ‘Hit the ball to J.P. and we’ll be fine,’” Servais said.

On the farm

Even with George Kirby moving to the big leagues and Levi Stoudt being traded to the Reds, the pitching staff at Double-A Arkansas continues to get quality starting pitching thanks to some talented reinforcements from High-A Everett.

The Travelers pitching staff has been led all season by right-hander Taylor Dollard, who has been the most effective pitcher in the Texas League this season.


Dollard, a fifth-round pick in the five-round 2020 draft out of Cal Poly, was making his 25th start for Arkansas on Saturday night. In his previous 24 starts, he’d amassed a 14-2 record with a 2.02 ERA. In 129 innings pitched, he’s struck out 117 batters with 30 walks. Opposing hitters are batting just .193 against Dollard, who doesn’t have an overpowering fastball but has pinpoint command of it and outstanding off-speed pitches. His 2.02 ERA is the fourth lowest in all of full-season minor-league baseball for starting pitchers.

After a strained lat muscle shut him down during minor-league minicamp and delayed the start of his season, right-hander Emerson Hancock, the Mariners’ first-round pick in 2020, has put together a solid season. Making his season debut May 17 and working on a limited pitch count early, Hancock has started 18 games this season, posting a 7-4 record with a 3.52 ERA. In 84 1/3 innings pitched, he’s struck out 77 batters with 27 walks.  

But it’s been the success of right-handers Bryce Miller and Prelander Berroa, moving up a level that has been impressive.

In his first seven starts for the Travelers, Miller has a 2-0 record with a 3.23 ERA. In 34 2/3 innings pitched, he’s struck out 36 batters with 12 walks. Despite a reedy 6-foot-2 frame, Miller has a fastball that can hit 100 mph and a power slider. A fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft, Miller projects as a reliever in the big leagues and could have a similar impact as Matt Brash by next season.

Berroa, 22, was acquired in a midseason trade from the Giants for infielder Donovan Walton. After struggling with pitch efficiency in his first two starts with Arkansas, pitching a combined 5 1/3 innings and allowing five runs on just two hits while issuing nine walks and striking out nine batters, Berroa adjusted to the new level. He struck out 11 batters in his third start with Arkansas and is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his last four outings, allowing just seven hits with eight walks and 29 strikeouts.