Sunday, June 12, 2011
Carl Crawford prepped for Rays fans
By Allan Ryan
Special to ESPNBoston.com
TORONTO -- Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona couldn't say much about the fan reaction he thought Carl Crawford might receive in Tampa Tuesday night.
Other than to say, "I guess there'll be cowbells."
The Red Sox left fielder isn't sure what to expect, either, but he said Sunday he was "looking forward to see how it turns out."
Crawford's not unreasonable hopes -- given the number of Red Sox fans who traditionally turn up at Tropicana Field -- were that the locals would lean towards reminiscing over his eight years of stellar contributions to the Tampa Bay Rays, instead of his free agent jump to the Red Sox -- for seven years and $142 million.
"Well, that's what I'm hoping," Crawford said before the Sox took their eight-game winning streak out for another matinee against the Blue Jays. "I have no ill will. There just wasn't any decision about whether to stay in Tampa or not ... no option at all. There's no way you could stay with a team if a contract isn't even offered to you. I hope (fans) will be smart enough to realize that."
Crawford, a top-third of the order guy his entire career, now finds himself hitting out of the six-hole for the streaking Red Sox. Acceptable, he agreed. And, yes, better than seventh or eighth, where a miserable .155 April had taken him.
"I mean, I've been there my whole career (top of the order), so I can't lie and say I don't miss it," Crawford said. "But this is working for us as a team and you definitely don't want to mess with that chemistry we've been getting so far.
"It's something that's probably going to be this way for a while and something I just have to accept. It's been good, too; it's not all bad. I'm just still trying to figure out what you have to do down there."
Well, the 29-year-old, four-time All-Star has figured out plenty since April, when he managed a solitary homer and six RBIs. In May, for instance, he hit .304 with 15 RBIs. Or June, with his .308 and 10 RBIs going into Sunday. Or hitting .338 for his last 18 games (with 18 RBIs) that has upped his overall average from .209 to .246.
"That first month was a struggle," Francona said. "It was cold, he was trying too hard, things snowballed and it took him a lot to dig himself out.
"He's batting 30, 40 points, whatever, lower (than his career .296), but I think the rest of the way, you get Carl Crawford. Which is good."
Allan Ryan is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.