What are the Royals Doing with Aaron Crow?

Yesterday was a big day for non-usual-suspects breaking Royals news. First, Dave Gershman revealed that Tim Collins had made the Opening Day roster. Around the same time, reports began to hit Twitter that Aaron Crow had also made the O.D.R., also as a reliever. I'm not sure who can claim this one, but basically, it wasn't Dutton. Tanner Knowland has been out front in breaking the story. The Collins move was somewhat expected, and as a prospect that has been considered a reliever only for a few years now, not controversial. The Crow decision is, however. Crow, heading into his age 24 season, has been a starter almost exclusively throughout his baseball life.

So assuming that the Royals do send Crow to the bullpen, just what are they doing?

  • This is a short term move: There's a theory that this is only a short stint in the bullpen for Crow. A chance for him to get some seasoning and work with the Major League staff for... two weeks... a month? Who knows? I'm sure that, logically speaking, you'd want to have your best teachers at the Major League level. That being said, if he's being promoted to work with McClure, what exactly does that say about the minor league instruction? Moreover, isn't there a simpler way, logistically, to do this? While a short-term stint in the bullpen wouldn't be the end of the world, at the very least, it would be quite odd. For better or worse, today's pitchers are creatures of extreme routine. This isn't merely because they are all over-paid wimps who aren't tough, but because the industry has collectively embraced routine to a huge degree. The "getting him work with McClure" ethos is actually part and parcel of that same larger pitch counts/throwdays/etc mindset. Only, you know, a weird scenario that will totally throw off his program for half a season.
  • This is a long term move to the bullpen: By long term, I mean something like a full season. Perhaps Crow will spend a season in the bullpen, with a future plan to make him a starter. This is becoming a popular trend again, though teams have had their difficulties executing it. Rather than easing pitchers into a higher workload, the Joba and Feliz and Soria examples suggest that teams are easing them away from a higher workload. Then accepting as a given later that they can't handle it. Perhaps because they no longer can. Part of the problem is that the longman/swingman bullpen role no longer exists anymore. If Aaron Crow spend a season pitching one inning at a time (and often less) where is that going to leave him in 2012?
  • This is a permanent move to the bullpen: It would appear that this would be a rash decision, and it would be. Nevertheless, Crow has not been particularly good as a starter during his time with the Royals. He was close to awful last season at AA. Maybe the attitude is that there's some stuff there and some polish and well, the system is good enough to produce other starters. That would be a mistake, but Crow has pitched himself into this position.
  • For all we know, the answer could still be none of the above. The situation is still in flux, and there's been little on-record from the official sources one way or the other. I hope that the additional news reveals a coherent plan, because this looks like a mistake. Yes, the "bring him along as a reliever" theory is back en vogue. How many times has it been executed properly? Swingmen, long men, and Sunday starters don't exist anymore. Crow throwing 13 pitches to four batters every other day isn't going to ease him into starting. I don't want to hear about Brian Duensing just yet either. 13 fluky starts with a low BABIP and no strikeouts in a pitcher's park doesn't tell us much. Tick tock.

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