- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- It appears as though Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford has 10,000 things running through his batter's mind when he's at the plate, as he's having trouble focusing with his keen hitter's eye.
Just when it looks like Crawford is ready to go on one of his torrid streaks, as he has throughout his career in the American League East, he trips.
Crawford has been unable to keep a consistent approach at the plate this season. He went 0-for-9 in his past three games and is 4 for his past 31. He has dealt with a hamstring issue that landed him on the disabled list in late June and early July, as well as a strained left elbow, but he claims there are no physical issues right now.
Prior to this skid, Crawford collected nine hits in three games against the New York Yankees, including a pair of doubles, three runs scored, an RBI and a stolen base, leading many to believe he was ready to emerge for the stretch run.
"I was feeling good," Crawford said following Wednesday's 4-0 loss to his former club, the Tampa Bay Rays. "This series, for some reason, I just wasn't myself. Whatever the reason was, I just struggled this series. I guess I've just got to go back and watch some video and start from scratch."
What Crawford means by "scratch" is trying to simplify things and get back to the basics.
"Sometimes you get out of whack a little bit, and you've just got to make those little adjustments to get back to where you were," he said.
Crawford is known for his work ethic, spending countless hours in the batting cage and watching video of his swing and opposing pitchers. He's had many conversations with Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan.
Magadan's main concern of late with Crawford is his readiness, or lack thereof, in the batter's box.
During one of their recent chats, Magadan told Crawford that current Red Sox leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury had a similar issue in 2007.
There were plenty of times during Ellsbury's rookie season when he was fouling the ball over the third-base dugout or getting called for interfering with the catcher because of a late swing.
"[Ellsbury] will be the first to tell you that he was late getting ready to hit," Magadan said. "I just want Carl to be ready to hit. He's stepping and swinging at the same time. His foot is landing and he's swinging. It's impossible to hit that way. He knows it and he probably has too many things going through his head, and that may be why he's saying he wants to simplify things.
"I'm a believer in keeping things simple. I've never talked to him about mechanics because I don't want him to think about a lot of things when he's hitting. It's not something I would do with any of the hitters, making mechanical changes. I just want them to be ready to hit, and [Crawford's] not ready to hit; he's in between. He's late on fastballs and he's chasing the breaking balls in the dirt. He's not picking up the ball.
"Obviously, when you're not picking up the ball, a lot of times that's because you're thinking about yourself, you're thinking about your swing, you're thinking about what you want to do at the plate, and when you start doing that, that's when you're late and start chasing pitches out of the zone and fail to pick up the ball."
Crawford has been working in the cage, but the organization's philosophy is that once a hitter steps into the box, there should be only one thing on his mind: "Let it fly," Magadan said. "He's obviously not picking up the baseball."
Crawford is having particular trouble picking up the ball against left-handers; as Magadan pointed out, he's swinging at a lot of pitches out of the zone against southpaws. For the season, Crawford is hitting just .171 (20-for-117) against left-handers.
He also hasn't been able to produce against the Rays this season, the organization he had spent his entire career with until signing with the Red Sox as a free agent this past winter. He's 3-for-27 against the Rays in 2011.
"This time of the year, it's just another team you're trying to beat," Crawford said. "They have a good team, and you're just trying anything you can to beat them."
As the Red Sox packed their bags after Wednesday's matinee to head back on the road for Kansas City and Texas, Crawford said he's hoping his season-long frustrations at the plate turn around soon because if Boston wants to stay atop the division and make a deep run in the postseason, it needs Carl Crawford to be himself.
Crawford's struggles certainly aren't from a lack of effort off the field, but it's time for his work to translate in the batter's box, and he knows it.
"If you get in there, do your work and get focused, things will fall into place," he said.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.
Carl Crawford needs to make his work in the batting cage pay off at the plate.