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Crisp targeting a Spring Training return

Crisp targeting a Spring Training return

KANSAS CITY -- Center fielder Coco Crisp is back in the Royals' clubhouse, looking forward to next season with both shoulders surgically mended but not sure what his contract status will bring.

Crisp hopes to have his game up and running by Spring Training, with the objective to be ready to play by Opening Day. That would be pushing the nine-month forecast for his return, but so far, he's ahead of schedule.

Crisp's season ended with June 24 surgery for a labrum tear in his right shoulder. On July 21, he had similar surgery on his left shoulder.

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"I had five pins put in my right shoulder and seven in my left shoulder. I said if I got one more I'd set off the metal detectors," Crisp said with a grin.

"They're supposed to make you like Superman strong. I'm waiting for that to happen."

Crisp, obtained from Boston last offseason for reliever Ramon Ramirez, was supposed to ignite the top of the lineup and cover acres in center field. He did, as much as his shoulder miseries allowed. Although he batted just .228 in his 49 games, he drew 29 walks for a .336 on-base percentage and swiped 13 bases in 15 tries.

But his season ended June 12.

Crisp has been on a rehabilitation program in California where he lives, and just a month past his second surgery, he feels up to shagging balls in batting practice. That's not allowed, but it doesn't keep him from grabbing a baseball.

"I just throw it straight down on the ground and grab it just because you've got to do something," Crisp said. "It's like a boxer that's out of boxing. He's so used to hitting something he just walks around and hits a tree or something. It's good to have a baseball in your hand and just flick it and catch it."

There's no guarantee that Crisp will return for a second season with the Royals. The club holds an $8 million option for 2010 with a $500,000 buyout.

"I have no control over that," Crisp said. "If it was my option, well then I'd probably exercise it and stay here. But it's not. Most of the big names, like Manny [Ramirez] and so forth, because they have proven themselves over the years -- Hall of Fame caliber -- have that. But I don't have that luxury."

Because of uncertainty over his physical condition, it's possible that the Royals would not exercise the option but offer a contract that would include a base salary with incentives based on games played or other criteria. At this point, general manager Dayton Moore doesn't know.

"What we'll do is, once the season is completed, we'll sit down as a group and just evaluate where he is and where he potentially fits with our baseball team going forward," Moore said.

For now, Crisp is content to concentrate on his rehab.

"We'll see what happens," he said. "I don't know. It'd be nice to stay here for a while. I like it here."

Moore said the Royals would have to evaluate medical reports on Crisp before taking action. But he liked what he saw of Crisp early this season.

"He's an exciting, dynamic player," Moore said.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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