February 2, 2023

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How 'carefree' Crismatt is focusing on fun

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This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell’s Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

One of the most unassuming, underappreciated Padres, Crismatt is just unabashedly himself everywhere he goes. He’s always smiling. (And I mean always.) He doesn’t take himself too seriously. And he lives his life with the type of levity that is, quite frankly, usually lacking in a Major League clubhouse.

“He has this propensity for falling asleep randomly,” said Padres right-hander Craig Stammen. “He’ll be sitting in his locker, with his eyes closed. We’ll wake him up, and he’ll be like, ‘I’m just relaxing, Papi, don’t worry about me.’

“He is very relaxed. He probably doesn’t want me to say that. But I really think it’s a great attribute that he has. Because there’s so much pressure on us and anxiety and stress to perform well. And the way he goes about his business in life, it’s like that stress doesn’t bother him at all. He’s just out there to enjoy playing baseball. It’s like it’s a Little League game.”

Or, to hear Crismatt tell it:

“Why not have fun? I just try to enjoy it and try to be myself. I’m just trying to be the same no matter where I am.”

The mindset clearly works. Crismatt has appeared in nearly every role imaginable this season. He’s pitched middle relief, long relief, extra innings — and he was even called upon for a spot start on a moment’s notice in April when Blake Snell sustained a groin injury in his pre-start bullpen session.

Now, Crismatt is suddenly earning himself some high-leverage innings, having posted a 1.90 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. Not that his role would ever change who he is or the way he pitches.

In a way, Crismatt’s pitching style suits his personality. It’s all about the change of pace. His fastball often sits in the upper 80s. Entering play Sunday, it had averaged 90 mph — on the dot.

“But when he pitches, it looks like he thinks he throws it 100 mph,” Stammen said, citing the way Crismatt unabashedly attacks hitters. (Of course it helps that he has a devastating putaway changeup.)

This week, Crismatt is back in St. Louis, where he made his big league breakthrough in 2020. The Cardinals sent him to Triple-A and he elected free agency that year. Padres director of baseball information services Matt Klotsche had scouted Crismatt, dating back to Crismatt’s time with the Mets. He liked the changeup. He liked the mindset. The Padres signed Crismatt the following month.

Now Crismatt is the bullpen’s workhorse in San Diego. And the clubhouse’s daily reminder to not take itself too seriously.

“Hilarious,” said Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove. “He’s absolutely hilarious. He was a guy that we all ragged on for a while. Not because he did anything wrong. But just because of the way he acted around here. … He’s very carefree, and he’ll just roll it out there and do his thing.

“He’s like the two-year guy that you’d think he has 15 years in the big leagues because of the way he acts. But he’s played himself into that role. He’s throwing the [snot] out of it right now.”

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