Crowe ready for challenge in outfield
Tribe feels young prospect's athleticism better suited in center
CLEVELAND -- In the field, at the plate and on the basepaths, Trevor Crowe is doing everything in his power to speed up his big-league timetable.Alas, the timetable can rarely be forced, as Crowe and the Indians came to learn last fall. Acknowledging an organizational hole at second base and trying to capitalize on Crowe's athleticism, the Indians subjected their former No. 1 pick to a position switch from the outfield to second shortly before the end of the Double-A Akron season. Nevermind that Crowe hadn't played the infield since high school (and even then, by his own admission, his skills in the infield were "mediocre, at best"). This was a shot for a young player to accelerate his rise to the Majors. And all he had to do was field some ground balls and turn some double plays. Simple, right? Well, not really. "Second base was definitely a struggle for me," the 23-year-old Crowe admitted. "I was uncomfortable, and the game sped up on me a bit. I had a very hard time trying to stay in the moment. You're going to struggle as a professional athlete, but the main thing is to stay in the moment, be prepared and do the best you can." Crowe's best, in this particular instance, wasn't good enough. Not only did he boot a few balls in the field, but, no doubt preoccupied by the switch, he began to labor at the plate, as well. Even he underestimated just how difficult it would be to make the transition in positions. "The main thing the public lacks knowledge of about second base is there's so much that goes into it," Crowe said. "What pitch is the pitcher throwing? How is [the hitter's] speed? What are his tendencies? Guys at that level have been doing it so long that it's just second nature to them, whereas I'm thinking about picking the ground ball up and making an accurate throw to first base, while I've got seven things on my mind." The experiment was as brief as it was unsuccessful. By the time Crowe reported to the Arizona Fall League, he was back in the outfield where he belongs. A month later, the Indians acquired Josh Barfield to solve their second-base riddle. The absence of the defensive distraction allowed Crowe to flourish in Arizona. In 21 games, he hit .329 with 18 runs scored, 14 RBIs and three stolen bases. That came after he had hit .349 with six doubles, two triples, two steals and 12 runs in the Eastern League playoffs. Such production is one reason the Indians are so enamored with Crowe, who was the 14th overall selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. He is the only in-house property seen as a legitimate threat to bump All-Star Grady Sizemore from the leadoff spot someday, and his hustle on the basepaths helps atone for an organizational deficiency in the speed department. "[Crowe's] definitely one of our brightest young prospects," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "We think he has the ability and tools to project as a prototypical leadoff hitter -- a guy that runs the bases aggressively and well."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.