Crouthers, a third round draft pick in 2001, spent all of 2004 with the Orioles' Double-A team, the Bowie Baysox of the Eastern League. He was 9-9 with a 5.03 ERA in 27 starts, allowing 23 home runs in 139.2 innings.
It was easily a season of struggles for Crouthers, who entered the year with a 21-16 career record and 3.64 ERA in three previous seasons in the Oriole farm system. He was third in the Eastern League with 138 strikeouts in 2004, but also third in earned runs allowed with 78, in addition to walking 68 and throwing eight wild pitches.
However, more than just his numbers were affected last year, Crouthers says.
"I was having some anxiety issues when I was throwing," Crouthers admitted. "It was something that just sprang upon me. I've always been an upbeat guy who had never felt nervous or scared, but all of a sudden I started having these feelings and gradually became more wild. I got through last season not really knowing what was going on, just trying to find the right help but never finding the right guys with the right answers."
After being traded to the Cubs, those feelings persisted throughout Spring Training. Crouthers sought the help of Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild and Dr. Harvey Dorfman, one of the nation's top sports psychologists, as a remedy to the problems he was facing.
"I spoke with Harvey on the phone a few times, just trying to get some advice," Crouthers said. "He knows what he's talking about, but it really all comes down to you as a person. He can give me all the advice in the world, but until I can take that advice and apply it, there's really no help."
Crouthers felt that being traded to the Cubs was a nice gesture, adding, "I knew I was wanted in a trade and that was important. But at the same time, I knew I was not 100 percent. That was tough for me because I didn't know how I would react. I wasn't worried so much about how I was going to react to new management, but rather how they'd react to the situation I was going through."
But the Cubs' reaction was one that surprised Crouthers somewhat.
"They were very supportive," he said. "I had talked with Rothschild extensively and also with (General Manager) Jim Hendry. They could tell I was constantly worrying and not being myself. After talking with me previously, they understand I was kind of torturing myself."
"My decision really had nothing to do with the Cubs or with being traded," Crouthers added. "It just got to the point where I didn't feel like I could compete. I kept having these same issues when I was throwing and decided the best thing would be to step down and take another route."
Since retiring, Crouthers has re-enrolled at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, where he pitched in college. His major is Psychology. Crouthers now plays softball with friends each Thursday and has taken on a part-time role with the university's baseball program under head coach Gary Collins.
Crouthers is still open to a return to the mound one day, although he isn't quite ready to say when, if ever, that might be.
"It's still in the back of my head that maybe I'll overcome these problems and play ball again," he said. "I'd hope someone might give me a chance. At the time, the Cubs said I had an open invite to come back. I still have an agent and I hope the time would come where teams are still interested in me and would give me a private tryout."
And if not?
"If not, then so be it," Crouthers said. "That's the way it was supposed to be."