By: Mark Harriman, Senior Editor
PAWTUCKET, RI (July 12) When Carl Crawford was having what was by all accounts a sub-par season last year in Boston, he heard the boo birds. But if they return this year when he gets back to the Boston lineup, he’s vowed not to listen.
In what is expected to be the first of three tune-up games with the PawSox -and the last on a season-long rehab stint that has run him through the Sox’ minor league gamut- Crawford went 2-3 with a run scored in five innings of work.
He helped his temporary teammates take a 5-4 lead in a 4 run fifth in what would ultimately become an 8-5 PawSox loss to the Buffalo Bisons.
He wasn’t put into any particularly taxing situations in left field, though in his second at bat in the third inning he lofted a pop up down the left field line that barely made fair territory. He turned a double into a single when he watched it land rather than take off for the bases.
Crawford admitting to dealing with a round of butterflies in his first plate appearance, but was at a loss to explain the base running blunder. “I was nervous the first at bat,” he said before a large crowd of assembled media after his day had ended. “ The second at bat, you know, that just happened.”
To say the veteran lefty has been frustrated thus far in 2012 is an understatement.
He’s dealt with off-season wrist surgery, then a strained ligament in his left elbow and -more recently- from a left hamstring strain which has set him back further. All of which has left him out of the Red Sox line-up for the their first 86 games.
Adding to his misery, Crawford recently offered publicly that he may need Tommy John surgery on his elbow during the off-season. And tonight he stated that he has come to expect that he might blow out his elbow at some point this season, even before he can make a formal off-season date with a piece of surgical steel.
It’s definitely not an envious cocktail of circumstance for a player who is feeling the pressure to earn that monstrous contract the Boston brass handed him in late 2010.
He’s feeling it from all sides. And that pressure is building.
He and the Red Sox have decided that he will play two more nine inning games in Pawtucket and take Sunday off. Then he’ll likely be in the Red Sox lineup on Monday in Boston against Chicago, probably in a ready-or-not scenario.
Crawford has been encouraged by his recent ability to play in back-to-back games and by the fact that his body has generally responded well. “And I’m really excited about getting about on the field.”
“I’ve been able to run the way I want to run. I threw the ball today the way I wanted to throw it. Pretty much been able to do the things that I normally do,” he said with his left arm heavily wrapped in a few therapeutic ice packs.
He was asked by one reporter about the scheduling of Monday for his return. “Probably because I feel the pressure of everybody wanting me to be out there. So I try to get as many at bats….
“The pressure to play? I want to be out there myself. I know the fans want me to be out there. Management. Everyone wants me to be out there. So it’s kind of a mixture of all that.”
When he’s at the plate, Crawford revealed, his left elbow doesn’t give him any problems. But throwing from his position is another story.
He admitted to recently adjusting his throwing mechanics in an effort to ease the pressure on the elbow. By his own account, he’s anxious to get back on the field. But adopting a new arm motion may not be enough to forestall the inevitable.
“When I’m throwing I’ve just said that whenever it happens, it happens,” he said matter-of-factly of a potential elbow meltdown. “But I’m not going to hold back once I get on the field. If I take the field I’m going to go all out.”
“I mean, you know, it’s a little concerning. But at the same time, like I said, once I cross that white line and get on the field I’m not going to worry about it.”
And if that elbow prevents him from playing at the level which has made him an All-Star throughout his 10 year career, he’s ready to take it from the fans.
He’s accepted the cat calls and boos as “my little theme, everywhere I go now.”
He admitted that it bothered him last year. “This year I’m trying to block all that stuff out.”
As if he‘s got enough to worry about.