Dragons’ Crook hopes to stay injury free, move up in Reds’ system

Dragons outfielder Narciso Crook during a game earlier this season. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

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Dragons outfielder Narciso Crook during a game earlier this season. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Narciso Crook’s career plans did not include a third season since 2015 with the Dayton Dragons. But injuries have interrupted his past two seasons, so here he is trying to get himself back on track toward the majors.

Crook played in 105 games for the Dragons in 2015 and 23 in 2016. Early in the 2016 season his battle with a long-term left shoulder problem finally forced him out of the lineup. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum.

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He suffered from once-a-year shoulder subluxations — a partial dislocation — in high school. But it would only hurt for a day. In college the pain lasted longer. Then in the spring of ‘16 the shoulder popped out five times and would hurt for a week.

“I was pretty scared because that’s a pretty big surgery,” Crook said. “And a lot of things can go wrong, especially during rehab.”

Crook was promoted to high Class A Daytona in 2017, but sports hernia surgery ended his season after 36 games. And there was more rehab.

“It’s tough because when you sign your contract to play a professional sport you don’t say, ‘Hey, I’m going to have a few surgeries here and there’” Crook said. “It’s a grind for sure. And then doing rehab is the toughest part because you’re doing that every day and you’re seeing your friends playing and doing well and you want to join them.”

Crook has been swinging the bat well lately for the Dragons. He had three hits, including two RBI doubles, Friday night in the Dragons’ 6-5 loss to Fort Wayne.

“It just felt good seeing the ball well — been a few games without getting hits,” said Crook, who is batting .289 with 10 RBIs. “I’ve been hitting the ball hard but right at people.”

The Dragons fell behind 6-1 against the TinCaps but rallied with a three-run eighth to cut the deficit to one on Crook’s double and John Sansone’s two-run homer. Then they hit the ball hard three times at the third baseman in the ninth. Twice it bounced off him, once for an error, once to the pitcher and a putout at first and finally on a line drive by Jose Garcia for the final out with runners at second and third.

“Today was good because we put up some runs and it was a tight ballgame,” Crook said. “Hoping to do the same thing tomorrow.”

The Dragons (9-10) surely were hoping for that Saturday. Friday’s loss was their seventh straight following a nine-game winning streak. The Dragons’ team ERA is 7.54 on the road and was 2.67 at home entering Friday’s game with an eight-game home winning streak on the line.

Wendolyn Bautista (0-1) started well, but a two-run third and two long homers in a three-run fifth put the Dragons in a hole.

Crook was in the middle of the comeback, and even though he wants to play at a higher level, he is enjoying his role as the 22-year-old veteran.

“It’s cool to help them out with little things that I’ve already seen,” Crook said. “I’ve taken the role pretty well and it’s good for me as a player because I’m that type of person anyway who would help others.”

Crook was rated the No. 28 prospect in the Reds organization entering the 2016 season. He said his goal is to keep improving and move up. Until that happens, Dragons manager Luis Bolivar is happy to have Crook in the clubhouse.

“He’s pretty good in the clubhouse with the guys,” Bolivar said. “He’s been through a lot and he encourages the guys. He’s a good guy.”

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