Crawford's slow start? No worries

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
11:47
AM ET
BOSTON -- The start to the 2011 baseball season has been all about change for Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford -- new team, different spots in the batting order, new city, and unexpected early-season struggles to manage.

And, of course, all that change he’s cashing in after signing a seven-year, $142 million contract.
[+] EnlargeCarl Crawford
AP Photo/Tony Dejak Crawford is 5 for 38 (.132) in his first nine games with the Red Sox.

Perhaps some sense of familiarity will spark a Crawford turnaround, with his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, in town Monday for the start of a three-game series at Fenway (ESPN, 7:10 p.m. ET).

Crawford is 5 for 38 (.132) in his first nine games with the Red Sox (2-7). Not his desired Boston beginning.

Yet, there were signs Sunday night that Crawford, who took extra batting practice before a 4-0 win over the Yankees, might be on the cusp of a breakthrough. Yes, he finished 0 for 5, but the box score was a bit deceiving as he made solid contact in his final three at-bats, with Yankees first baseman Mark Texeira robbing him on a hard-hit grounder in the sixth.

“He hit four balls on the screws; you don’t hit the ball like that all year and don’t get rewarded,” noted second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “He’ll be fine. Then everyone, we’ll all relax, settle in, and play our game.”

Manager Terry Francona has yet to settle on a permanent spot in the lineup for Crawford, hitting him third, seventh, second and leadoff already this season. Crawford was 1 for 15 in three games at the top of the lineup against the Yankees -- the first time he’s batted leadoff since 2007 -- a move made to get Adrian Gonzalez into the third spot so he hits in the first inning.

When it comes to addressing Crawford’s lack of production, and the expectations that come with his big contract, Francona said it’s not something he planned to talk about with the left-fielder who hit .307 last season.

“I don’t think we pull him aside and tell him anything,” he said. “I think you have your normal conversations and you try to stay consistent; players smell when you’re telling them something you don’t normally tell them. When he gets on base a bunch and starts creating havoc, he’ll feel fine. Until that happens with a lot of guys, there’s searching a bit.”

As for his first game against the Rays, the 29-year-old Crawford said he was happy to have faced his former club four times in spring training, so “he’s used to it now.”

Meanwhile, Francona said he is confident that things will “fall into place” for Crawford.

“It’s human nature, but everybody’s different,” he said, when asked about psychological hurdles of overcoming a slow start after signing a big contract. “Everybody talked when Jason Bay came and how well he handled it; the fact he hit a ball off the wall his first game helped. You just can’t press a button and get hits. I don’t see any panic or anything like that. This guy’s been playing a long time.”

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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