Talking with … Padres reliever Nabil Crismatt

In his first full big-league season, Padres right-hander Nabil Crismatt pitched the second-most innings of any reliever last year, just behind Craig Stammen. The 27-year-old Colombia native is at it again this year, stepping up whenever the Padres need him, whether it is a spot start, a high-leverage situation or mop-up innings. Known for his happy personality and infectious smile, Crismatt has become a favorite among teammates and fans.

Union-Tribune: Do you know what Nabil means?

Crismatt: It’s a Palestine name, Arabic. It means like a person that is really kind and happy.

UT: And noble. I read that it means noble, which fits you. Let’s go back to the first week of the season when you started a game because of a late scratch from Blake Snell, who was injured. You were told you were going to start at the very last minute. That was the first time you started a game in the majors and you went three scoreless innings. Just last week, you came in against the Braves and pitched in a high-leverage situation that led to a Padres win. You’re down for anything, right?

Crismatt: I like whatever. It was amazing. I feel like every day I get more experience and I just feel very comfortable to go out there and try to do my best every time they give me the opportunity. I always say I’m ready to go anytime they need me, so when they came to me like one minute before the game started and told me I was going to start that game, I take advantage of all that. I just go out there and try to do my best. I already was prepared because when you’re a reliever, you study all the hitters before you go to the game. So I just tried to go out there and do my thing.

UT: Do you enjoy starting? Was it a different adrenaline rush?

Crismatt: I love it. All my minor league career, I was a starter. I really like to be a starter. But whatever they need me for here, I’m here for that. I hope in the future, I get another opportunity like that one.

UT: You signed with the Mets in 2012 and didn’t make it to the majors until 2020, when you made your debut. Let’s talk about the years in between. What was significant about those years, when you were laboring through and trying to make it to the big leagues?

Crismatt: Well, it was a crazy story. I started in 2012 in the Dominican Republic and finally in 2013, the (Mets) sent me to the United States to play. I played all the levels in the minor leagues. I cannot say that I’m the kind of person that skipped any level. I feel I learned every single thing at each level. And I feel I was prepared when the opportunity came here to the big leagues. I passed through all that in the minor leagues and that helped me a lot. So thank God I’m here. I’m trying to be here for many years.

UT: You made your debut with the Cardinals in 2020. You pitched 8 1/3 innings that season. In 2021, you pitched 81 1/3 innings. Quite the jump! It wasn’t like you hadn’t done it in the minors — you had pitched 100-plus innings for several seasons — but to do it at the big league level, what did that show you about yourself?

Crismatt: I feel baseball is the same everywhere you go. It’s about where you throw the ball, it’s not about how hard you throw. I always say that. So I just tried to go out there and compete. It’s a game that you come here every day, you learn and you don’t control results. You just try to throw the ball, execute pitches and (hope) things go the way they should go that day for you.

UT: Were you surprised at how many innings you threw last year?

Crismatt: Yeah, I was really surprised. When the season is getting over and you see on the board that you’re almost 80 innings, that is satisfactory for myself. That’s what I work for. And that’s why you go in the offseason to train and be healthy. That’s what I’ve been looking for this year again, to be healthy and try to help the team in whatever they need.

UT: What kind of mentality do you need to do what you do?

Crismatt: My kind of mentality, I like when they take me for surprise because you don’t think too much. When you have a game that you’re going to start, maybe you prepare a little bit more. A reliever, your adrenaline comes from zero-to-100 in one second. So I really love it. I’ve been loving my job right now.

UT: Joe Musgrove shouted you out last season, unprompted. He brought you up to the media and said you were the unsung hero of the pitching staff. What did that mean to you to hear that?

Crismatt: He’s amazing. It’s amazing when a person like Joe says that. That’s one of the guys I’ve been learning a lot from this year and last year. He is really special. I love when he pitches and I try to learn about him every single day.

UT: You have such a great personality. You always have a smile on your face, you’re very friendly, you’re always ready to go. Have you always been this way, very positive and enthusiastic?

Crismatt: Yeah. Since I was little, I moved a lot, and in high school I was the same way. That’s my personality. I don’t try to change. I try to be me and try to have fun every single day I come to the ballpark. This is a blessing to be here.

UT: You were born in Colombia. What was baseball like growing up there? What was the culture around baseball?

Crismatt: My father took me Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to practice every single day. I did it like a hobby. When I was 15 years old, I got an opportunity from a guy that came from the Dominican Republic. And he told my father he wants to take me to the Dominican Republic to become a baseball player. I thank God that my family gave me the opportunity to go and do what I love. In that moment, I had to leave my school, but still I think that’s one of the best decisions that my father gave me and all the time I appreciate that. Because if they don’t give me the opportunity, maybe I was not going to be here right now. In baseball in Colombia, right now we’re getting more players in the big leagues. So it’s a sport that every day is growing. So when I when I had the opportunity to become a baseball player, I had to go out of Colombia. When I really became a baseball player was in the Dominican Republic. I started taking this seriously.

UT: Has your dad or your family been able to come watch you play a game in the majors?

Crismatt: Yes, last year was the first time my dad and mom and brothers came and watched me. It was amazing. I’m excited they can come this year again. I’m waiting for that moment again.

UT: What do you miss most about Colombia?

Crismatt: Now I’m living in Miami, so the food, I’m not missing a lot. Before that, I was missing a lot of food. But most of the things that I miss from Colombia is my family. My brothers, my mom, my dad. Most of the time, really I have everything here. I have my wife here and my little girl.

UT: What’s your favorite Colombian meal?

Crismatt: I like Arabian food, like Marmahon — it’s like couscous with tomato sauce with chicken. And hojas de parrastuffed grape leaves.

UT: I remember last year we would talk and you were always saying how you want to make sure that you’re pitching well and doing your job. It always means something to you. You feel you have to prove yourself every single day.

Crismatt: Yeah, I’m really hard with myself. I just try to learn every single day something new. Try to be my best version of me every time I go out there. So every time they score a run, I know it’s part of the game but I get really angry with myself because sometimes in the game, you get really calm and then the game will speed you up a little bit. So that’s what I’m trying to work on this year, to have the same mentality every single pitch and not lose my concentration in any pitch.

UT: Can you give us any insight into the bullpen?

Crismatt: I really have a good relationship with all the guys in the bullpen. I love every single one of them. Stammen, I say that he’s like my father in the bullpen. He’s the type of guy that I love to watch him pitch. I learn about him a lot. And I just try to get in a routine that he gets every single day. I’ve been in that right now. He’s been helping me a lot to get here.

UT: You had a beautiful baby girl in the offseason. How has fatherhood changed you?

Crismatt: It’s amazing. I think that life is about that. I just go home now and I’m excited to see her and it’s amazing when you wake up and see her. I’m just anxious to when she keeps growing up and (can) talk to me.

UT: What do you like about San Diego? Is there anywhere you’ve enjoyed going?

Crismatt: I’ve been in the zoo a couple times. I like the zoo a lot. The city of San Diego, I love it, the atmosphere. It feels like when you come here, it’s home. The energy, the atmosphere around the stadium is amazing. I want to be part of this team a long time in my career. I love to be here in San Diego so I hope I get a lot of time here. … I think we can do something special this year for San Diego. I’m really positive with that and I just hope God keeps us in the correct way this year, so we can give a championship to this city.

UT: Do you like when people say Merry Crismatt?

Crismatt: I love it. The funny part of that — I don’t know if many people know, but I was born on the 25th of December so…

UT: You’re a Christmas baby…

Crismatt: And my wife in Colombia is named Maria. So they call her Mary here, so it’s funny, Merry Christmas. It’s fun.

UT: You’re the type of guy who, when you go walking down the street, you find like a $20 bill or something. Like, good things happen.

Crismatt: I’m just happy. I’m a happy guy. I just come here every day and I love it.

Leave a Comment