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Baseball: Casey Crosby ready to report to Tigers camp

Casey Crosby pitches during one his three starts with Detroit Tigers last season. | Paul Sancya~AP

Casey Crosby pitches during one of his three starts with the Detroit Tigers last season. | Paul Sancya~AP

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Updated: March 6, 2013 6:25AM

Despite the arctic-cold temperatures outside the fieldhouse at Marmion in the late afternoon last Friday, it was beginning to feel like spring inside.

While distance runners circled the track, a pitcher and a catcher worked inside those lanes, strategically placed screens behind each of them. The ball made a familiar, distinctive “pop” as leather met leather in the glove of Cadets’ sophomore catcher Colten Reiner.

The youngster had jumped at the chance to catch a major league pitcher, racing home after his last class to get his gear and hurrying back.

It was Casey Crosby’s last throwing session of 40 or so pitches before the 6-foot-5 lefty would leave for Florida early this week, more than a week before pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report (Feb. 12) to Lakeland for the start of the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers’ spring camp.

It’s the second year in a row in the major league camp as a member of the team’s 40-man roster for the 24-year-old Crosby, who got his first “cup of coffee” last season, getting called up from Class AAA Toledo for a 15-day stint and three starts with the big club.

“I’m more excited than nervous (this year),” Crosby said. “Last year I didn’t know what to expect, not ever being in a big league camp. I got my feet wet. I’m ready to attack ‘em, to get after it.”

The Kaneland High School product lost his first start against the Yankees on June 1, came back to beat Cleveland and had a no decision in Colorado. He was 1-1 with a 9.49 ERA in 12.1 innings before returning to the Mud Hens to complete a 7-9 season.

Combined, Crosby threw 138 innings after going 9-7 in 131.2 innings of work in 2011 in Class AA Erie. Two of his previous three seasons as a pro, he was sidelined by injury — the first recovering from “Tommy John” ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow.

Detroit officials this winter say they plan to use him as a starter in camp, but he’s also thought to be a candidate for the team’s bullpen this season, too.

“I came out of the pen in the Arizona Fall League and I feel like I have the stuff,” Crosby said. “I can do either, really. It’s just whatever they want me to do. I’ll do it.”

His primary emphasis? Focus on his control. It hurt him in those nerve-wracking starts with the big club last June (11 walks in 12 innings), but he looks forward to the challenge.

“All you gotta do is relax. Don’t think about throwing balls or throwing strikes, just think about attacking (the hitter at the plate),” he said. “That’s what I learned the second half of the year. You’ll walk guys. Everybody does. But the guys that keep it consistent have the most success. Don’t let one walk turn into two.”

Crosby took three months off from throwing after last season, which ended with him less than 100 percent.

“It was my shoulder. I just remember my last three outings I was just grinding to get through them. I was down in velocity,” he said. I didn’t feel pain, I just felt tired.”

Next offseason, he thinks he’ll change his routine, hoping to take two weeks off before resuming regular light throwing sessions before picking up his pace in late December.

“Nothing but light toss, but something to keep that muscle memory and throwing motion going,” he said.

Now, he just hopes to keep making progress and gaining maturity on the mound.

“I think I’ve always been a mature person when it comes to everyday life,” he said, “In high school and before, I would just try to throw 110 percent, 100 miles an hour every time I could. … Now, I feel more in control of situations and I can think my way out of things. The game has slowed down to me.

“You still want to keep that mentality of attacking, but you don’t want to be out of control and not thinking anything. Baseball is a mental game and if the game speeds up and you speed up, that’s not good. I just want to slow the game down and get control of it.”

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