But on Saturday morning, Crawford said he was told by team trainers that he is now on a "four-day" program, and because of that was not in Saturday afternoon's lineup against the New York Yankees and left-hander CC Sabathia, a pitcher he has had success against in his career.
"Fine? Yes, sir," Crawford said. "I just found out about this today, so I'm trying to figure this out like you are." He told another group of reporters he was "embarrassed" not to be playing.
Muddying the picture further, Valentine said at a media session Saturday that he was told four games into Crawford's return to sit him, and played him anyway. A team source said that Crawford previously knew about the four-day plan, and it was Crawford, not the medical staff, who told Valentine he wasn't playing July 20 against the Blue Jays -- his fifth straight game upon returning. And Valentine responded that yes, he was, and he did.
Crawford played in six consecutive games before he sat out last Sunday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays. And making the move even more curious, Crawford, who hit his first home run Friday night, and the Red Sox had an off-day Thursday.
"Actually, I did a manager 'no-no' thing, you know," Valentine said. "I went against what I was told to do. Never to be done again."
Could one assume, then, that Valentine was not wild about the idea? The manager responded to that question in an odd fashion.
"Yeah, I'm wild," he said, then added, "I'm not wild," punctuating with a few sound effects evidently intended to convey his impression of "wild."
"I'd like to have Carl every day," Valentine said. "I'd like to have all my good players every day. (But) I understand the situation better now than I did then."
Crawford came into the game batting .319 against Sabathia, the second-highest average of any Sox player in uniform, and it's not a small sample size, either. He is 22-for-69 against the Yankees left-hander.
"His numbers against CC, Yankee Stadium, short right-field fence -- tough decision," Valentine said. "That's why I get paid the big bucks."
According to multiple sources, there has been friction this season between Valentine and the medical staff, with the manager chafing at the authority that apparently has been extended to Mike Reinold, the team's head physical therapist.
Valentine said the four-day program is designed to protect Crawford from overusing his left elbow. He sprained his ulnar collateral ligament during spring training while rehabbing from January surgery on his left wrist. Crawford has said that he has been told he ultimately will require Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, which the club disputes. If there is this much concern about his elbow, according to a baseball source, Crawford may decide in the next 10 days to go ahead and have the surgery, so that he'll be fully healthy at the start of the 2013 season.
"I'm learning," Valentine said, when asked to explain the reason for the four-day program. "I'm figuring out what it is. Preventative and building up. We're preventing in his early going that he doesn't overuse his elbow, and that we're building up tolerance as we go. I don't think it's going to be four days and a day off all year. I hope not."
Valentine said he could possibly have had Crawford DH. "I'm not pushing that envelope yet," he said.
In another extraordinary scene Saturday, former Red Sox manager Terry Francona sat in the clubhouse, surrounded by a semicircle of players for close to a half-hour Saturday, sharing laughs and conversation in a group that included Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Cody Ross, Clay Buchholz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nick Punto and Kelly Shoppach. Adrian Gonzalez also leaned in for a brief embrace, while Crawford, who has been critical of Francona, made a brief appearance at his own locker, then quickly left.
Francona, now an analyst for ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," has seen his old team on other occasions, but had avoided lengthy visits before Saturday. He also embraced bullpen coach Gary Tuck, who is known to be at odds with Valentine.