- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- When Carl Crawford arrived in the visitor's clubhouse Tuesday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, he read the lineup card and saw his name in the seventh spot of the batting order.
Crawford batted second in the first seven games he'd played since returning from the disabled list a week ago, but he wasn't surprised when Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine dropped him to the seventh spot.
"No thoughts," Crawford said. "It'll be time to play at 7 o'clock. (Valentine) talked to me about it. I am where I'm at and 7 o'clock I'll go play -- that's pretty much it."
Crawford, who went 0 for 3, is 0 for 11 in the past three games.
Prior to signing with the Red Sox as a free agent before the 2011 season, Crawford spent the majority of his career batting second for the Tampa Bay Rays. When he arrived in Boston, that changed under former manager Terry Francona, and Crawford spent almost all of last season hitting in the Nos. 6, 7 and 8 spots in the order and posted a career-worst .255 average with 11 homers and 56 RBIs.
Crawford was frustrated last season, but says this season is different.
"I understand now," he said. "Last year, I was trying to prove to the manager, and all that kind of stuff, and fighting against myself. This year, I understand I might be at the bottom sometimes or I might be at the top. I'm cool and I've come to grips that might happen, so this year I know to stay within myself and still keep playing my game."
Valentine said he would "probably" continue to pencil Crawford into the seventh spot against left-handers and keep him second against right-handers.
"Put him in a place he was comfortable with last year," Valentine said. "He has all of about 15 at-bats against left-handers this whole year, so until he gets real comfortable, I talked to Carl about it actually, and it seemed to make sense to him and it makes sense to me. Rather than rush it, just let it come to us."
It's a small sample size, but in 14 at-bats against left-handers this season Crawford is hitting .286, while he has a .250 average in 12 at-bats against right-handers.
"We've talked about it," Valentine said. "He doesn't seem sensitive talking to me about it. As a matter of fact, we had a plan in spring training where he was even going to possibly hit some first. We talked about that in spring training and then there was all this talk about him never wanting to hit first and that didn't seem to be the case at all. It's tough experimenting in July, but we'll do it.
"We all like comfort, and a lot of times the thing that gives you comfort is practice and repetition, and we haven't had a chance for a lot of practice and repetition. He's going to do fine and he seems great about everything we've talked about so far."
Crawford had wrist surgery in January, then suffered a setback with an elbow strain during spring training. He finally was activated from the disabled list on July 16 and admitted he would have preferred to get more at-bats during his minor league rehab assignment before moving into the Boston lineup.
"I was supposed to get 50 at-bats and I got 30, or something like that, so in a perfect world you would like to, but you know the situation and you just have to deal with it," he said.
"Oh, I think that's true," the manager said. "I would have liked to have had him have more at-bats too."
Crawford isn't at full strength in the field either. Crawford was replaced for defensive purposes in the seventh inning Tuesday because he's still dealing with elbow issues in his throwing arm, Valentine said.
"We're just playing defense," Valentine said after the game. "We're not going to test that arm in a 1-1 game where he's going to have to make a throw out of his shoes, not until he's feeling good about it."
Despite his limitations, both Valentine and Crawford are content with the left fielder's contributions so far.
"Good," Valentine said. "Really good. Sustaining something that's good at this major league level takes a lot of readiness."
"I'm OK with it so far," Crawford said. "I hit a little bump these last few games, but overall, it's better than I did last year at the beginning, so I'll take it right now."
When asked if he's more comfortable this season than he was in 2011, Crawford said, "I think I am. I understand how things go and things don't frustrate me the way they did last year, so I think I'm in a better place."