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The enormous expectations and anticipation surrounding UConn baseball star Reggie Crawford will have to be put on hold.
Crawford, the rare slugger-pitcher combination who was projected to be a high Major League Baseball draft pick next summer, injured his left elbow last Sunday and will likely need Tommy John surgery.
“He’s still consulting with doctors, and we’re getting second and third opinions,” UConn baseball coach Jim Penders said. “There is no real course laid out, but it’s probable that he’s going to miss the spring.”
Crawford, 20, has played mostly at first base in his two seasons at UConn, pitching only eight innings in seven games and striking out 17. In the Cape Cod League and with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team last summer, he showed off a fastball touching 101 mph. Baseball scouts and draft analysts began projecting him as a top-10 pick in the 2022 MLB draft.
UConn’s plan was for Crawford to be a starting pitcher on Sundays, and DH or play first base on other days. He began ramping up for that role during the fall baseball scrimmages, for which dozens of scouts and MLB executives were showing up at Storrs for his appearances.
Last Sunday, in the final scrimmage with about 30 scouts at Elliot Ballpark, Crawford felt something pop in his left forearm and came out of the game. Tests the next day showed a partial tear in the elbow.
Crawford is consulting with doctors for the best course and which doctor might perform surgery. He has been in touch with several former Huskies who have had the surgery, including major leaguers Anthony Kay, a first-round pick in 2016, and Scott Oberg.
Recovery from Tommy John surgery is 12 to 18 months. Crawford, who hit .309 with 14 home runs and 78 RBIs in 64 games at UConn, could have the option of DHing next season as he rehabs, but Penders said that is not likely to happen with a multimillion signing bonus at stake.
“I‘m sure he has that desire, but it’s my job to protect him,” Penders said. “I can’t imagine a scenario where we would entertain that.”
If Crawford has the surgery now, he could be nine months into his rehab by the time of the 2022 MLB draft in July.
“He’s really been the buzz of the scouting community and Major League Baseball, and there is no reason he shouldn’t be one of the top guys taken still in the draft next year,” Penders said.
“... As I told him, as terrible as we all feel, it’s not a tragedy if you don’t throw another pitch in a UConn uniform or swing the bat in a UConn uniform again. It would be a tragedy if we make bad decisions right now and jeopardize what is as close to a guaranteed long career in the major leagues as I’ve ever seen. He has to look out for No. 1, and his teammates want that, too.”
Dom Amore can be reached at email@example.com.