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Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 1

Francona rests struggling Crawford

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 17, 2011

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RED SOX NOTEBOOK

The Red Sox have tried moving Carl Crawford around the batting order to get him going. Manager Terry Francona reluctantly went to his last option yesterday and moved Crawford out of the lineup entirely.

The $142 million left fielder watched the Sox’ 4-1 win over the Blue Jays from the bench. Crawford is hitting .137 with a .185 on-base percentage through 54 plate appearances. He has one extra-base hit and one RBI.

Francona hoped to wait until Monday before giving Crawford his first day off of the season. But after talking it over with bench coach DeMarlo Hale, he decided to act now.

“I think he really wanted to play, which we like. But I think it will do him more good to take a little bit of a breath this morning and just let things slow down for him,’’ Francona said.

“There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind, this guy is going to be everything everybody thinks. He’s too good. He’s going through a really tough time. He’s a pretty conscientious kid. He’s trying too hard.’’

Crawford understood the decision.

“From the outside looking in, I guess I’m trying to do too much,’’ he said. “I’m trying a little bit too hard. I probably need to try and do a little bit at a time. I’m trying to do too much at one time. I feel normal, but I guess I probably am trying to do too much.

“You look up there and you see that 1-something average. You try and get it all in one at-bat,’’ he said. “I’ve got to take it one at-bat at a time, take it one pitch at a time, and go from there.’’

Crawford’s open stance at the plate has looked somewhat unbalanced. His front foot is on a sharp angle outward and he is lunging at pitches. It’s something he plans to watch on film.

“I’m open when I’m not swinging well. I’m a little more open than you’d normally see me. That’s a slight difference right there,’’ he said. “My timing is bad. You’d think after two weeks the timing would be better, but for some reason it’s not. That’s what I’m trying to figure out right now.’’

Crawford is 3 for 28 in six games as the leadoff hitter. He asked not to hit leadoff during his time in Tampa but agreed to when Francona approached him. But now the manager plans to revisit that idea.

“We can hit him anywhere,’’ Francona said. “When he’s good and he’s going good, he’s going to stir up trouble on the bases for the opponent. That’s just not happening the way we want to right now. I’d like to see how he feels about things.’’

Hall of Famer Jim Rice, a Sox broadcaster, stopped by Crawford’s locker before the game to offer a few words of advice.

“Just relax, that’s all I said. He’s pressing,’’ Rice said. “He’s a great kid. He’ll be OK.’’

Crawford is hearing that a lot lately. But with the Red Sox off to a 3-10 start, his poor performance becomes magnified.

“It’s just bad all around right now. It’s so stormy,’’ he said. “It’s tough because the team’s not hitting, you’re not hitting well. You have to take all that, stay strong, and try to stay focused and do the things you do well. It’s tough right now.’’

All right in left Mike Cameron had last played left field in 1996 when he was with the White Sox. Only 23 at the time, he played 3 2/3 innings in left at the Metrodome in the final two games of the season.

But when J.D. Drew pinch hit in the seventh inning and stayed in the game, Cameron shifted from right field to an unfamiliar spot in front of the Green Monster.

“Go with the flow,’’ said Cameron, a three-time Gold Glove winner in center field. “I figured I could do it.’’

Cameron did better than that. He made a nice running catch in the gap in the ninth inning to snare a line drive off the bat of Jose Bautista. Then with a runner on third and two outs, he came in on a ball hit down the line by Travis Snider and made a sliding catch to end the game.

“It’s a lot harder to play than most people think,’’ said closer Jonathan Papelbon, the beneficiary of those catches. “For him to make it look that easy, it goes to show you how athletic he is.’’

Cameron also was 2 for 4.

Work for Albers Matt Albers, who was placed on the disabled list on April 7 with a strained lat, will make a rehabilitation appearance for Triple A Pawtucket today and is scheduled for another on Tuesday . . . Righthander Junichi Tazawa, who had Tommy John elbow surgery last April, threw two innings in an extended spring training game Friday . . . Pitching coach Curt Young turned 51 yesterday.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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