About two weeks ago Terez Paylor ran a story in the Star discussing Aaron Crow's future role with the team. It didn't generate much comment, but it did include a few interesting items.
For one, Crow mentioned that he's not really being stretched out.
"I haven’t thrown more than two innings at any point from spring training until now. It would take a while if I went back to being a starter. … I’m fine with being in the bullpen now, and I’m fine with the role."
All Yost had to offer was the uber-generic "we'll evaluate at the end of the year." Well, thanks for that, Ned.
Early in the season, it looked like the Royals might be trying something innovative with Crow, actually using him as a semi-long reliever, perhaps keeping his arm slightly more ready to start. Since April 18th, however, Crow has exclusively pitched in one inning or shorter increments. Ah, the Royals being boring and typical and conservative again, stunner!
There's no doubt that Crow has pitched well. Yes, he has an ERA of 0.00 in 14.1 innings, and for good measure he hasn't even allowed an inherited runner to score either. He's struck out 8.8 per nine and done a nice job avoiding hits.
Nevertheless, it's hard to quite see what the point of all this is. To be sure, Crow had struggled as a starter and he's been as good as can be as a reliever. But 14 innings shouldn't change the overall argument about a starter's potential value. Unless the Royals are limiting Crow's workload for some predetermined amount of time, he's clearly not being stretched our or eased in. He's being constricted, so to speak.
To me, this all reads like his days as a starter are over, which is a pretty dramatic Plan B for a relatively young prospect. If that is the case, it would be a bold bet by the Front Office that they have more than enough starting pitchers coming up through the system. We'll see if they're right.