On one hand, Aaron Crow enjoyed his up-close vantage point during the Kansas City Royals’ postseason run last October.
He took pregame sprints with his fellow pitchers, kept sharp with some occasional bullpen work. Games would find him in the dugout, hanging on every pitch as the Royals squeezed drama out of so many contests.
“I was there rooting for them, hoping they played well,” said Crow, now battling for a role in the Marlins’ bullpen. “It was just fun to see what they were doing and to be part of it.”
There was a limit to what Crow could do, though. As the odd man out of a deep K.C. pen, Crow was left off the postseason roster as the Royals progressed all the way to Game 7 of the World Series before falling to the San Francisco Giants.
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For a Kansas native who followed the Royals growing up, that concept probably made it easier. On the other hand, there’s no denying a certain awkwardness.
“It sucked, but you’ve got to deal with what happened,” Crow said Wednesday before the Marlins’ 8-4 spring loss to the Detroit Tigers. “Just move on from it and use it as motivation.”
Crow now will carry that into a new locale, acquired for left-hander Brian Flynn in a November swap of hurlers who needed fresh starts.
“Sometimes that’s exactly what guys need — a fresh start and for people to believe in you,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “We certainly like his stuff. He’s got a good arm … now it’s just a matter of figuring where he fits.”
Crow joins a relief corps that features closer Steve Cishek and setup men A.J. Ramos and Bryan Morris at the back of the progression. Lefty Mike Dunn also gets penciled in as a situational specialist.
Crow, 28, still isn’t that far removed from his All-Star season as a Royals rookie in 2011. But his numbers declined a little each year until hitting turbulence last summer.
Though he posted a 6-1 record, his ERA zoomed to 4.12 as he gave up 10 homers in 59 innings. The toughest outing might have been Sept. 14, when he was on the verge of getting the Royals out of a sixth-inning jam against Boston before giving up a grand slam.
Crow made just three appearances after that.
“I just was making bad pitches and getting beat,” he said. “It happens to everybody, but I just did it at the wrong time.”
He worked a 1-2-3 eighth on Wednesday, by far the best relief stint of the three men who followed David Phelps. It was Crow’s third consecutive scoreless appearance, lowering his spring ERA to 2.57.
He also sees a lot of similarities between these Marlins and what happened last year in Kansas City.
“It’s a good young core that’s played together for a few years, and they were a lot better last year than the year before,” he said. “I’m here to help them make that jump to the next step.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Phelps continued to make it tougher for Redmond to set his rotation, working five strong innings and leaving with a 4-0 lead. The former Yankee faced just three batters over the minimum, giving up two singles and walking two.
“This is the best I’ve felt,” said Phelps, who lowered his ERA to 0.56. “I feel pretty locked in now. I came in [to camp] and they liked what I was doing, so they’ve kind of let me go with it.”
Redmond said: “You don’t have to throw 96 in this league to win ballgames and be effective. You’ve just got to be good on the corners, and I think you saw that today.”
Dan Haren, meanwhile, stayed behind Wednesday to throw on the back fields in Jupiter following a rough outing against Atlanta.
▪ Wednesday was something akin to Don Kelly Appreciation Day, as the popular ex-Tiger renewed acquaintances with former teammates and Marchant Stadium regulars. Redmond even obliged by starting him at first base, batting cleanup.
“It was a great run here,” said Kelly, who stroked an RBI double in the fifth. “A lot of wins, a lot of great relationships built. It’s the bond you form with teammates, coaches, fans. That’s really what it’s all about.”
Kelly played six seasons in Detroit, endearing himself by playing every position except shortstop during his time there. He even caught a game in 2011, the same year he made a one-batter cameo on the mound.
His big moment came that postseason, getting a Game 5 start in the AL Division Series and rewarding Jim Leyland’s faith with a solo homer that sparked Detroit to the clinching win over the Yankees.
▪ The game also was a homecoming of sorts for Dee Gordon, whose boyhood home in Avon Park is less than an hour away. Until his trade from the Dodgers last December, he had always reported to spring training in Arizona.
“He’s a great kid, fits in perfectly in our clubhouse,” Redmond said. “He might not be a fan of this bus ride, though.”