Crotta has 'awesome' experience this spring

Crotta has 'awesome' experience this spring

PHILADELPHIA -- The math is simple when it comes to the Pirates' bullpen, and no one knows that better than right-handed reliever Mike Crotta.

The 26-year old Florida native knew that when he arrived in Bradenton, Fla., at the start of Spring Training, and in the days leading up to Friday's Opening Day in Chicago, he understands the math even more.

The Pirates have a decision to make about their final two bullpen spots, and they have three choices in Crotta, lefty Garrett Olson -- acquired through waivers from Seattle on March 18 -- and right-hander Chris Leroux.

"I feel like [Spring Training] couldn't have gone better for me," said Crotta, who was making his first trip as a player to a Major League ballpark for Tuesday and Wednesday's On Deck Series at Citizens Bank Park. "I [went to Florida] in the beginning of December because I had some elbow issue to work through. From the first day, I've just worked with [Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage] on getting the right mentality to be a reliever, and working on getting the ball down in the zone."

Crotta has been a starting pitcher throughout his five Minor League seasons since he was drafted in the 17th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, but from Day 1 Crotta knew that, eventually, he would be a reliever. So with that in mind, Crotta knows that even if he doesn't make the Pirates out of Spring Training, he's very close to his ultimate dream.

"I've learned a lot this spring, and it's something I can take with me into my career," said Crotta, who has a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings of work, along with four strikeouts. "It's awesome to be here, and the whole experience is awesome. From the plane ride to playing in a game, it's all just awesome. I'm ready to go."