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Growing up a KC fan, Crow ready to go

Growing up a KC fan, Crow ready to go

KANSAS CITY -- It's probably premature to expect right-hander Aaron Crow to be pitching along with Zack Greinke and Gil Meche next summer at Kauffman Stadium but, no doubt about it, the Royals have big hopes for Crow.

Crow, after agreeing to a three-year Major League contract for a guaranteed $3 million plus incentives, was introduced to Kansas City in a news conference Friday. If he makes the Majors and reaches various incentive levels, such as number of games pitched and so on, it's estimated he could pass the $4 million mark.

The big league contract means Crow goes immediately on the Royals' 40-man roster (Jose Guillen was moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room) and he'll go to Major League Spring Training at Surprise, Ariz., next February.

General manager Dayton Moore said that Crow would get an opportunity to make the big league club but, given that Crow hardly pitched at all this year, the Royals are likely to take a cautious approach as he works off the rust.

"Every player that comes to Major League Spring Training we expect to compete for a spot on our team, but we're not going to put limitations on Aaron, by any means," Moore said.

"We want to make sure everything from a strength and conditioning standpoint is where it needs to be before we put him into competitive games. That's important. It's about Aaron having a 15-plus-year career in the Major Leagues."

So the Royals will place Crow in the Arizona instructional league starting Monday and go from there. No decision has been made on whether he'll play in a winter league after that.

Crow, who'll turn 23 on Nov. 11, pitched just three games this year for the independent Fort Worth Cats (3-0, 1.06 ERA) but not at all after being the 12th overall choice in last June's First-Year Player Draft. And he pitched just three games in 2008 for the Cats after being drafted by the Washington Nationals.

That's a lot of down time over two years since leaving the University of Missouri, but Crow is confident that won't seriously slow his road to the Majors.

"I'm not all that concerned," he said. "I mean I've been working out and getting my throwing in, just not in game situations but in bullpen and side sessions. It might take a little more than it would've if I'd have gone in right away, but I don't think it'll delay it much at all."

Crow has continued to work with a variety of coaches and has been honing his changeup in hopes that could balance out his sinking fastball and sharp slider.

"It's been a year and a half, so I think I've gotten older and a little bit wiser and know more about pitching than I did when I was in college, so I think that's the really the thing that has changed," he said.

J.J. Picollo, assistant general manager of scouting and player development, noted that Crow was an advanced college pitcher and should adjust to pro ball rather quickly.

"Aaron has a very sound delivery and he's a good athlete," Picollo said. "Every guy is different [but] our scouts' and our opinion is that he'll be fine. Now it's us recognizing at what pace he needs to go."

For Crow, the Royals signing reflects his two-state background, growing up in Wakarusa, Kan., and playing at Mizzou, and fulfills a certain fantasy.

"I've been a Royals fan my whole life, so it's a great opportunity for me to play here in Kansas City, because I grew up watching the team and it was always a dream of mine to play for the Royals," he said.

He's not sure why, but he tended to follow outfielders.

"I'm too young to remember George Brett, so it was really like [Carlos] Beltran and Johnny Damon were my two favorite players."

And he loved to watch such pitchers as Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez.

The signing of Crow is the capper for the Royals' 2009 Draft. They've signed their first 22 selections and Moore wants to see an improved Minor League system increasingly paying Major League dividends.

"Prior to September, we had five homegrown baseball players on our roster out here at the K, and it's very important to us that 60 to 70 percent of our 25-man roster ultimately reflects home-grown talent," Moore said.

In all, 32 of the 49 Royals draftees are on board including, as of now, No. 1.

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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