Tito drops CC to 7th: 'Trying too hard'

April, 3, 2011
4/03/11
1:02
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Terry Francona’s decision to drop Carl Crawford from the No. 3 hole to seventh in the Red Sox batting order for Sunday’s series finale against the Texas Rangers brought to mind a conversation I had with Rays manager Joe Maddon about his former left fielder this spring.

“He’s going to get scrutinized to a level now that he wasn’t scrutinized here,’’ Maddon said. “I don’t know how he’s going to react to that. Obviously if he’s doing well, it’s not going to be an issue. If he’s struggling at all, it may become an issue.

“He’s going to do fine, he’s going to do fine. That’s what I believe.’’

Crawford has yet to get the ball out of the infield in seven at-bats, striking out four times. He has reached base, on a walk in his last plate appearance Saturday night against a Rangers rookie, Mason Tobin, who was making his major-league debut.

UPDATE: Crawford got his first hit with the Sox in his first at-bat, lining a single just inside the left-field line.

“I think looking at him, it’s kind of obvious he’s trying too hard,’’ Francona said. “Especially with a lefty today [Matt Harrison], just kind of let him sit down there. As soon as he gets on base, causing some havoc, he’ll loosen up and the real Carl will come out.’’

Crawford is not accustomed to doing much sitting in his career. In six of the previous eight seasons, he played in 150 or more games. Last season, his first day off didn’t come until May 18, Tampa Bay’s 39th game of the season. He got off to a great start in 2010, batting .337/.390/.551 in April.

This season, of course, he comes in with what has proven to be added pressure for other players, a huge new contract -- seven years, $142 million. Maddon, however, believes that the other big-name players on the Red Sox should offer some protection.

“Salary-wise he may be the guy,’’ Maddon said. “Otherwise, he’ll be able to hide in that whole group. They’ll protect him.’’

Crawford has never started in the No. 7 spot in his career, though he has made 43 starts in which he batted either eighth or ninth. In his seven at-bats out of the 7-hole, he is hitless.

Adrian Gonzalez, who has five hits in the first two games, will bat third Sunday, with Kevin Youkilis fourth and David Ortiz, who has homered in each of his first two games, fifth.

Francona made a couple of other lineup changes, sitting J.D. Drew against a lefty for the second time in three games, this time giving the start to Darnell McDonald instead of Mike Cameron. Jed Lowrie, who walked and singled after entering Saturday’s game in the sixth inning, will start at short.

Texas manager Ron Washington also made a couple of alterations to his lineup. He's giving Michael Young the start at second base, with Ian Kinsler serving as DH, and playing Andres Blanco at short instead of Elvis Andrus.

The lineups:

RED SOX

Jacoby Ellsbury, cf

Dustin Pedroia, 2b

Adrian Gonzalez, 1b

Kevin Youkilis, 3b

David Ortiz, DH

Jed Lowrie, ss

Carl Crawford, lf

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c

Darnell McDonald, rf

Clay Buchholz, rhp

RANGERS

Ian Kinsler, DH

Michael Young, 2b

Josh Hamilton, cf

Adrian Beltre, 3b

Nelson Cruz, rf

David Murphy, lf

Mike Napoli, c

Mitch Moreland, 1b

Andres Blanco, ss

Matt Harrison, LHP

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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