Crawford, Wheeler set to face former club

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
5:44
PM ET
BOSTON -- Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford sat alone in the home dugout at Fenway Park on Monday afternoon and kiddingly said he might have to perform some sort of séance to the baseball gods to get him out of his current 5-for-38 slump.

Crawford’s start in Boston hasn’t been the best, but he said he’s not worried, because he has been hitting the ball hard the last couple of games.

“I’m not really disappointed because I know it’s just the beginning. Let’s hope it gets better,” he said.

Maybe facing the club he grew up in as a professional will help. The Red Sox host Crawford's former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, in a three-game set, beginning tonight.

“It’s going to be fun, seeing my old teammates,” Crawford said. “I had a chance in spring to do that, but it should be fun.”

Crawford is not the only former Ray set to face his old employer.

Red Sox reliever Dan Wheeler played seven seasons with Tampa during two separate stints. This is the first time he’s faced a former club, and he said he’ll treat it just like any other series.

“It’s just another game,” said Wheeler, a native of Warwick, R.I. “I know it’s hard to believe, but that’s how I’m treating it. There are a lot of different faces over there, but some familiar faces. At the same time, I need to go out and there’s a job that needs to be done. They’re going to try to get a hit, and I’m going to try to get them out.”

Red Sox manager Terry Francona was asked about Crawford playing against his former team, and if it would help or hurt his confidence.

“I thought we did that in spring training,” Francona said. “That’s why I sent him up to Port Charlotte the first night just so he could talk to everybody and get everything out of the way. I guess it has to be the regular season too. He’s been through the American League East and I don’t think answering a couple of questions will effect whether he gets hits or not.”

The managerial styles of Francona and Rays skipper Joe Maddon are completely different. While Crawford said with a laugh that he would pass on a request to compare the two, Wheeler talked about what it’s like to play for each manager.

“Tito’s a little more traditional and Joe is a little more out there,” Wheeler said. “That works for [Tampa], it really does. I really enjoy both aspects of it. Joe thinks outside the box and it’s good. He’s good, he really is. I don’t know how else to describe it, but he’s a little out there -- in a good way.”

Wheeler also said he can’t believe the records of the respective clubs at this point. The Sox are 2-7, the Rays 1-8.

“No, absolutely not. I think there’s way too much talent in both clubhouses.”

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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