The two were teammates at the University of Missouri during Crow's freshman season in 2006. Crow, the Royals' 2009 first rounder, pitched well in his regular season professional debut, though he fell one out shy of picking up his first professional victory. The 23-year-old right-hander went 4.2 innings, yielding just one unearned run on four hits and three walks while striking out two. Crow struggled a bit with his fastball command, often missing low in the zone, and the home plate umpire's tight strike zone did him no favors. Still, he showed excellent stuff while throwing 48 of his 80 pitches on the night for strikes.
Crow's fastball was sitting at 93-94 mph with tailing action, topping out at 96. He mixed that with a mid-80s changeup and a dynamite slider that he threw anywhere from 81-85 mph. Indeed, Crow victimized Missions' second baseman Logan Forsythe with a tremendous slider for his first strikeout in the first inning. Forsythe, whom MadFriars.com ranked this offseason as the Padres' fifth-best prospect, could only watch as Crow's 85 mph slider caught the outside edge of the plate for strike three.
After surrending his third walk, Crow gave way to Everett Teaford with two outs and two on in the fifth. Teaford, who only recently learned that he would be relegated to bullpen duty this spring, responded with a tremendous outing. The 25-year-old southpaw entered the game and struck out the Missions' cleanup hitter, Matt Clark, ending the threat. He then pitched the final four innings, retiring 12 straight batters before yielding back-to-back walks with two outs in the ninth. Teaford settled down and coaxed shortstop Beamer Weems into a harmless fly out to right field, preserving the Naturals' first win of the season. For his impressive effort (4.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K), Teaford was awarded a well-earned victory.
On offense, the Naturals jumped on Culp almost immediately. With one out in the first, NW Arkansas strung together four hits, including doubles by second baseman Johnny Giavotella and designated hitter Ernesto Mejia, while plating two runs. In the second inning, catcher Manny Pina – in his first at bat with the organization – slammed a solo home run against the wind into the Missions' bullpen. RBI singles by left fielder Tim Smith and Pina in the third inning brought home the Naturals' final two tallies.
The two teams will square up again on Friday for the middle game of the three-game series. Right-hander Mario Santiago is scheduled to take on the Missions' Simon Castro.
Elsewhere in the minors:
AAA: Omaha 6, Memphis 4
Every O-Royals starter except catcher Edwin Bellorin had at least one hit on Thursday night as Omaha knocked off the Memphis Redbirds in their season opener, 6-4. Starter Gaby Hernandez yielded three runs on five hits and a walk before giving way to Victor Marte, who earned the win with two scoreless frames. In his new role as closer, Blake Wood notched his first professional save. The big right-hander tossed the final two innings, surrendering one run on two hits while striking out one.
On offense, shortstop Irving Falu (2-for-5), first baseman Kila Ka'aihue (2-for-4), and center fielder David Lough (2-for-5) all chipped in two hits apiece. In the third inning, Ka'aihue blasted his first home run of the season, and an inning later, right fielder Jordan Parraz followed suit.
High-A: Myrtle Beach 4, Wilmington 1
Despite a sparkling start by Mike Montgomery, the Wilmington Blue Rocks fell on Thursday to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, 4-1. Montgomery went five strong innings, yielding just one unearned run on two hits and a walk while striking out six. Unfortunately, the Blue Rocks' bullpen allowed three unanswered runs in the final three frames, negating Montgomery's effort.
The ‘Rocks' offense managed just four hits on the night, one apiece by third baseman Alex Gordon (1-for-2), first baseman Eric Hosmer (1-for-3), left fielder Jamie Romak (1-for-4), and second baseman Fernando Garcia (1-for-3). Hosmer and Gordon also each drew a walk. Shortstop Ryan Wood had a High-A debut he'd probably like to forget. The Royals' 2009 11th rounder was 0-for-3 at the plate with a strikeout and two throwing errors.
Low-A: Quad Cities 4, Burlington 0
Like the Blue Rocks, the Burlington Bees on Thursday failed to mount any kind of offensive attack, managing just five hits while being shut out by the Quad Cities River Bandits, 4-0. Four of the five hits were accounted for by outfielders Hilton Richardson and Carlo Testa, who both went 2-for-3. Both players also added a walk, while Testa's hits both went for extra bases (a double and a triple).
On the mound, John Lamb was tagged with his first loss of the season. The young southpaw started for the Bees and lasted four innings, yielding two runs (one earned) on three hits and four walks while striking out five. Mike Lehmann and Mitch Hodge combined for the final five frames in relief, allowing the final two River Bandit runs on three hits and two walks.
RC Player of the Day: Manny Pina (2-for-3, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 RBIs)