Red Sox Left-fielder Carl Crawford has been keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com since spring training. In this edition, he talks about when he'll know he's ready to come back off the DL, why he doesn't consider the Orioles rivals, shares some All-Star memories, and what he hopes happens in the second half of the season. (as told to Louise K. Cornetta)
June 17 we were playing Milwaukee and I ran to first base. When I was getting close to the bag, I tried digging a little harder and that's when I strained my [left] hamstring and felt the pain. I was thinking it was definitely a hamstring, but I wasn't sure at the time how bad it was. I went and got X-rays and stuff like that and we figured out it was just a strain. The main thing I was worried about was how long I was going to be out for. You can deal with strains because it won't take that long to come back. What you don't want to hear is that you tore something. Once they ruled that out, I felt much better. I really wasn't worried about it being my legs, even though my legs are so important to my game, because I figured with the right treatment I'd be fine and that's been the case so far.
Since I was out, I couldn't play against the Astros in my hometown of Houston when we were there . I definitely would have liked to play in front of everybody at home. They like to see me play. I wish I could have gotten out there. Hopefully I'll get another chance to play in front of them someday. It was good to see Michael Bourne who is on the Astros because we played on the same Little League team growing up and are still friends. Our Little League team was the Angels.
I really didn't get to do much in Houston because I had to get to the field so early for rehab. I had to be at the field every day at one. The whole trip there was like a blur and I didn't get to visit too many people or anything. It was in Houston that I started hitting again. It's a little challenging when you haven't hit in a while. But the more you start to swing, the more you start to feel comfortable. I've been swinging for over a week now. So I feel alright.
Next up for me is going to play some games in the minor leagues next weekend. I wanted to go on a rehab assignment so that I could see some pitching before I get back to the real action. You know how it is, you want to be right before you get back out there. I'll know when I'm ready to come back when I can run around those bases and feel no pain. When I'm not thinking about it when I'm running, it's just second nature like it's always been.
July 18 is when we're targeting for me to be back. I'm excited because I am really tired of sitting around. They've been working me pretty hard on the DL. It will almost seem like it will be a little bit more relaxing when I'm playing again. Most days now, I come in and warm up, do some stretching, have heat on me, do drills, running, hitting, it's a lot. I've really missed being in the action and competing playing against another team. It's not as much fun when you just have to sit back and watch. You can't do anything to help your team. You just have to sit back and take it all in and hope for the best.
We have to talk about Friday's game against the Orioles. Let's start with that fight between Papi [David Ortiz] and [Kevin] Gregg. I saw it on the TV because I was on the trainer's table getting iced. I didn't get the pleasure of seeing it live like everyone else. I thought that was hilarious because they both missed each other with their punches. You get that close to somebody you want to at least connect one time. Look, when you are going to get suspended anyway, you might as well make the best out of it.
I heard what some of the Orioles were saying after the game about our payroll and all that nonsense. I am not going to call what's going on between these two teams a rivalry. This is just a team in Baltimore that is looking for any kind of way to get their guys going. We understand that. So, I wouldn't really call the Boston-Baltimore series a rivalry. Now, back in the day I do remember all the brawls Tampa and Boston had. When I was with Tampa, we were the same way as the Orioles, in that we were struggling and the guys on top, you always want to knock that guy down. When you can't beat them, you do stuff like that. I understand, I've been there before. At the end of the day, you have to go out and beat them like you do any other team.
Friday's game wasn't just about the fight, we had [Josh] Beckett have to leave the game early [hyperextended left knee]. We have definitely been hit by the injury bug lately, especially with our pitchers. The main thing is that for the most part, we don't have any dramatically serious injuries. Most guys are just out for the 15 days. Guys have a chance to get strong and come back healthy.
One final note on Friday's game, Youk [Kevin Youkilis] was named to the All-Star Game. He and the rest of my teammates that are going get to have fun at the All-Star activities. They get to share that with their families and have a good time. Over the All-Star break, no trips to Vegas or anything fun like that for me. I'm just going to keep rehabbing and swing the bats and working out. I'll be trying to stay right. I'll be looking forward to next weekend to play in some rehab games. So by then, hopefully I'll be ready to go. All-Star break this year will be all about strengthening my leg up to get back on this field, that is all I am worried about right now.
I have been to four All-Star games. [Jacoby] Ellsbury is going to his first one this year. My first one was in my hometown of Houston in 2004. Being at home with my family and seeing everybody was special. I was 22. I couldn't believe I was at the All-Star Game so young. Being in the stadium, I remember thinking I couldn't believe that I was there at the time. Then in 2009, I actually was MVP of the All-Star Game in St. Louis. I got the award because of the catch I made. In the seventh inning the game was tied and I robbed Brad Hawpe of a homerun by reaching over the wall to grab the ball. I never thought I would do something like that! That was really nice to get that trophy and all that stuff.
Papi got to pick his team for the Home Run Derby. Between us, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Pedy [Dustin Pedroia] lobbied to be on his team. He's been raking the ball and even been our cleanup hitter. He'll tell you he can hit the ball to the moon. Pedy probably would have been a good choice for him.
Let's take a look at some of what has been happening on the field since our last diary. Before I got hurt, I was able to play for the first time during the regular season in Tampa. It was cool. I went back and saw my friends. I saw the guys I used to play with. We had a mall connected to our hotel. So you know me, I don't like to go out much, but I didn't have to do too much but walk a few feet to get there.
Another highlight was Interleague play. Playing in the NL parks was an advantage to the NL because you take one of our best hitters out of the lineup in Big Papi. Not having him in the lineup will cripple any team. Then throw on top of that you have a pitcher having to hit. I was hurt and Big Papi couldn't play every day, that definitely took its toll on us. We had AG [Adrian Gonzalez] play the outfield so Papi could get back in the lineup. Normally when you have a guy like AG play out of position, the ball comes to him a lot, but he didn't really have to catch too many balls. He said he played it before and I'll say he looked comfortable out there. He didn't ask for my advice. He looked like he had it down pat. You know, AG doesn't ask for anybody's advice. He knows everything.
We also traded Mike Cameron to the Marlins. He was my locker mate. It was sad to see a guy like him go. You know, a high character guy, good guy in the clubhouse. At the same time, you understand what has to be done. You just kind of go with the flow and don't think about it too much. Cam is definitely missed. Another outfielder, [Josh] Reddick, has been swinging the bat really well since he was called up. He has a nice swing from the left side. You can tell he's a guy that wants to play on the Major League level. He looks like he has all the skills to do that. He's filled in really well for us. Hopefully he can continue to swing that hot bat for us and they'll find a way to continue to use him, I'm sure.
This homestand has been a good one. We had six homers in one game! That Thursday game to open the Orioles series I thought was really nice. You had guys swinging the bat well and feeding off each other. When you see the bats going like that, it's exciting to watch.
I saw Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit. I think that guy has the flair for the dramatic. It only makes sense that number 3,000 would be with a homer. Good for him. For me, I am still a ways away from even thinking about getting 3,000. Until you are approaching a milestone like that, you don't think a lot about it. But I will say, it's a number that always stays in the back of your head.
Looking back at the first half of the season, there were a lot of ups and downs for me … more downs than ups. It's been a real live learning experience for me. I don't even really know how to explain it. It was just a different time for me, something new. It's something I will never forget, that's for sure. As a team, we started off slow. I think that was just because we were feeling everything out. Once we got going, we did what we thought we should be doing and played well.
The second half, we know what we have and we look forward to kicking it into another gear. Hopefully taking off even better than what we did in the first half. I hope we go in and dominate the second half. That's what I'd like to see, but I know it's going to be tough. I would like us to take charge of that first place spot and keep it there. For me, I am just hoping I can be myself and play the way I normally play. I don't want to do any more or less than that -- just be myself.