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Crawford, ready or not, to return on Monday

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  July 12, 2012 10:09 PM

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According to GM Ben Cherington, Carl Crawford will play nine innings for Triple A Pawtucket on Friday and Saturday, take Sunday off and then play for the Red Sox on Monday.

Those plans are tentative, of course. But the idea is to have Crawford in left field against the White Sox.

In Pawtucket, Crawford went 2 for 3 Thursday night then told reporters he was not 100 percent healthy, but was ready to play.

"At this point right now, I'm able to play, so I'm going to go with it. Whether I'm ready or not, I'll be out there, hopefully," he said. "It's time to get out on the field and see what I can do.

"I feel the pressure of everybody wanting me to be out there. I want to be out there myself. I know the fans want me to be out there, the management — everybody wants you to be out there, plus you want to be out there. It's a mixture of all that."

Crawford had left wrist surgery in January. He made quick progress early in spring training then suffered a setback and started the year on the disabled list. He then partially tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.

The ligament remains an issue, but Crawford is able to hit the cutoff man. He has said several times in the last 10 days that surgery — and that would be Tommy John surgery — could be needed.

There is a school of thought that Crawford should get the surgery now, scrap the season and be 100 percent healthy in spring training. It takes six months or so for a position player to recover from Tommy John surgery. Otherwise the Red Sox run the risk of Crawford tearing that ligament in September than possibly missing the start of next season.

But Cherington said tonight that's not necessarily the case and surgery is not the only option.

“That’s been discussed as a possibility down the road,” he said. “But there are plenty of position players who have performed at a very high level with a UCL injury and we think Carl can do that. But he’s got to go do that. From what he’s told me and what he’s told our staff, he’s focused on playing and wants to play.”

Crawford seems almost resigned to the idea of something happening.

"When I'm throwing, I've just said whenever it happens, it happens," he said in Pawtucket. "But I'm not going to hold back once I get on the field. When I take that field, I'm going to go all out. Once I cross those white lines and get on the field, I'm not going to worry about it."

Crawford's tenure in Boston has been a nightmare. He did not play well at all last season and was uncomfortable with the clubhouse atmosphere after spending his career with the us-against-the-world Rays. He also had trouble getting used to the media and fan attention after spending his career in a small market.

The Red Sox then hired Bobby Valentine, who on ESPN criticized had Crawford sharply several times. Their relationship got off to a rocky start.

Then came the injuries, assorted setbacks and even a racial slur directed his way during a rehab game in New Hampshire earlier this month. There are reports tonight that the slur came from a Leominster cop.

So in a year in a half, Crawford has gone from being one of the best players in the game to this mess.

Some of it is his fault. Most of it isn't. You have to wonder if at some point the sides get together and figure out a way to solve all these issues.

Crawford is signed through 2017. Either they have find a way to make it work or work out a way to trade him. It might be impossible given his contract, his health and the new collective bargaining agreement that restricts payrolls. But if Crawford's Boston career continues down this path, what else is there?

Here's hoping that when Crawford plays on Monday, the fans give a big ovation. The guy probably could use it.

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