Crow a big part of Royals' solid, young bullpen
An All-Star in 2011, right-hander goes about his business quietly
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It's been a quiet Spring Training for Aaron Crow. In fact, not much has been heard from Crow in his two seasons with the Royals, except for the hullabaloo surrounding his All-Star selection in 2011.
Reporters just haven't come around very much, and the right-handed reliever really doesn't miss the attention.
"Relievers usually don't get talked to unless you're getting hit. The closer maybe, but not me. That's fine with me, just lay low, do my job and be left alone," Crow said.
He's done that job very well. His two-year totals include a 3.13 ERA, a 7-5 record with two saves thrown in and 130 strikeouts in 126 2/3 innings with a workload of 130 games.
All this has come in Crow's first exposure to relief pitching. He was drafted in 2009's first round as a starter and filled that role in 2010 in 27 Minor League games, although, to be candid, not all that successfully.
So two years ago in Spring Training, Crow became a relief pitcher, one of four rookies in the bullpen. Knees shaking, he was called on to make his debut Opening Day. Two days later, he had to work out of a bases-loaded jam.
When he began the regular season with 13 consecutive scoreless innings and had a 0.76 ERA in his first 20 games, he was picked as the Royals' representative in the All-Star Game at Chase Field in Phoenix. He didn't play but his reputation was greatly enhanced.
Crow insists he's not really sure about the status of his bullpen role now. Manager Ned Yost, however, clarified the situation: Crow is a setup man, a guy who's likely to be pitching the eighth inning in hopes of handing over a lead to closer Greg Holland.
Crow is a solid card-carrying member of what has been a very strong, young bullpen for the last two years.
"The good thing is we have enough good relievers that you can be the eighth-inning guy one day and have one bad outing and go back to the fifth inning the next day. Just whoever is pitching the best is who we're going to go with," Crow said.
"With Kelvin [Herrera], Tim [Collins], [Louis] Coleman and myself, anybody's capable of getting the job done against any team and against any part of the order."
The makeup of the 2013 bullpen, of course, is pending the shakeout of Spring Training but Crow, Collins, Herrera and Holland are locks. There'll likely be at least two long men, possibly also-rans in the derby for the fifth-starter's job. It'll depend, too, on whether Yost decides to open with a 12- or 13-man staff.
"It's a good group of guys. Everyone is confident in each other to be on the mound and it's also a good group of guys to hang out with during the game," Crow said.
The bullpen again this year is without long-time closer Joakim Soria. He missed all of last season because of elbow surgery but occasionally showed up in Kansas City. Now he's gone permanently, having signed with the Rangers.
"We miss him. He's a great guy," Crow said. "I learned a lot from him and he's a great pitcher, too, so it's a tough loss, but we've got to move on and I think we have the tools to do that."
For half of last season, the Royals had veteran closer Jonathan Broxton in the 'pen.
"He was a quiet guy but you could pick his brain and learn from him, so he was really helpful, too," Crow said. "And now we've got Dan Wheeler and [George] Sherrill and those guys have been around for a long time and know what it takes. It's a luxury to have guys like that and you're stupid if you don't talk to them and try to learn from them."
Wheeler and Sherrill are non-roster candidates with a total of 17 years of service time in the Majors.
Yost likes the reliability that Crow has shown in the last two seasons with a fastball and a slider.
"It's like any top-notch, backend bullpen guy. They've got to be able to command their fastball and command a secondary pitch. And if it's an above-average pitch, they're going to be dominant. He's got both of them," Yost said. "Where he runs into trouble, like all humans do, there are days when he's going to struggle to command his pitches but not very often."
So far, Crow has pitched just twice in the Cactus League, giving up a solo home run [by the Reds' Kristopher Negron] and will face the Rockies on Friday night.
His bullpen address isn't going to change any time soon, not with the Royals committed to a rotation of James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis and either Bruce Chen or Luke Hochevar.
Becoming a starter again is not in Crow's foreseeable future.
"We'll see," he said. "It's not going to happen this year."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.