First pitch: Red Sox still unsure on Crawford

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First pitch: Red Sox still unsure on Crawford

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Carl Crawford didn't collect any hits Tuesday. Nor did he steal any bases or work any walks. He didn't contribute any spectacular catches, or even score a run.

And yet, without any of these things, he managed to dominate the news -- both before the Red Sox' 2-1 victory over the Texas Rangers and afterward.

Tuesday afternoon, eyebrows were raised when the Red Sox lineup card was posted in the visitor's clubhouse and Crawford's name was listed seventh.

This seemed an odd decision, since Crawford had hit second in all seven of the games he had played in the last week or so, while noting, in interview after interview, how comfortable he was to be back at the top of the lineup.

In 2011, Crawford's first season with the Sox, he had found himself demoted in the batting order after just two games. With rare exceptions, Crawford remained exiled there for much of the year, where it was difficult for him to utilize his speed, athleticism and aggressive brand of play.

In fact, with Crawford hitting either sixth or seventh, he had the opposite effect: in September, the outfielder confessed to trying too hard to hit home runs. That effort, like most everything associated with Crawford's initial season in Boston, was not met with much success.

Returned to the top of the lineup last week, Crawford played with a friskiness not seen much in 2011. In his second game, he swiped three bases, something he didn't do in any one game the season before.

But seven games in, Crawford found himself right back in the seventh spot, ostensibly because manager Bobby Valentine thought that was the best place for him against opposing lefty Martin Perez.

Crawford, after initially conveying annoyance with the move, said he was OK with the switch, insisting that he knew how to handle it better than a year ago.

But then Valentine, with somewhat twisted logic, maintained that Crawford was on board because hitting seventh was where he was "comfortable'' -- having hit there last year.

Even stranger, while the case could be made that Crawford was struggling at the plate -- he came into Tuesday with just one hit in his previous dozen at-bats -- the move coincided with the elevation of journeyman Pedro Ciriaco to the second spot. Ciriaco had done nothing -- against lefties, righties or anyone else -- for the last week.

As it turned out, however, the pre-game shuffle was merely a warm-up. Things got stranger still after the game when Valentine was asked about Crawford's removal from the game in the bottom of the seventh inning.

When Daniel Nava replaced Crawford in left in a 1-1 game, it sparked rumors that Crawford had either been traded or had injured himself.

It turns out that Valentine simply didn't want Crawford to make a throw from the outfield with his balky elbow, late in a close game.

"Im not going to test that arm in a 1-1 game,'' explained Valentine, "where hes going to have to make a throw out of his shoes. Not until hes feeling good about it.

All along, it was known that the Sox would have to make accommodations with the sprained ulnar collateral ligament in Crawford's left elbow. At every step along the way of Crawford's comeback, there were instructions given to shortstops to meet Crawford more than halfway on throws from the outfield, all in the effort to limit the strain.

General manager Ben Cherington said last week at Tropicana Field that Tommy John surgery for Crawford was not, as Crawford himself had speculated, inevitable. A number of players, Cherington noted, had played for many years with an elbow in the same condition as Crawford's.

Now, a week later, here was Valentine pulling Crawford out of a tie game, with one eye toward injury prevention and another toward him potentially costing his team a game.

Is this what can be expected the rest of the season? Has Crawford become such a liability, like some lumbering DH forced to play the field, yanked whenever the score dictates?

All of which served as a harsh reminder that, some 19 months after the Red Sox signed him to a 142 million deal, they still aren't quite sure what to do with him.

They're unsure of where he should hit or how he should play, as they were last year. And compounding matters, they now feel compelled to pull him off the field out of fear that he will soon either hurt himself or his team's chances of winning that particular night.

Quotes, notes and stars: Wright 'able to neutralize' top of Orioles lineup

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Quotes, notes and stars: Wright 'able to neutralize' top of Orioles lineup

BALTIMORE -- Quotes, notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 7-2 win over the Orioles.

 

QUOTES

"He was able to neutralize their top half (of the lineup) and that was the biggest thing.'' - John Farrell on Steven Wright.

"He never broke stride, continued in a full-out gait around third base. It was a good heads-up play on his part.'' - Farrell on Mookie Betts scoring all the way from second on a swinging bunt.

"It kind of throws them off because then if I leave one up, I'm hoping the difference in the speed will get them out front.'' - Steven Wright on changing speeds on the knuckleball.

"Yeah, I do. Off the field. Not when I'm at the park, but off the field, I do.'' - Xander Bogaerts, acknowledging that he does think about his ongoing hitting streak.

"It was amazing. Hitting my first home run and putting us ahead three (more) runs, it's awesome.'' - Marco Hernandez on his first major league home run.

 

NOTES:

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 23 games with two doubles.

* Marco Hernandez's three-run homer in the eighth inning was his first major league homer.

* Mookie Betts has now reached in 13 straight games against the Orioles.

* Betts has scored 14 runs in his last 11 games.

* In his last seven games, David Ortiz is 14-for-28 in his last seven games.

* Ortiz has seven homers in his last 12 games at Camden Yards and 12 homers in his last 16 games here.

* Ortiz has homered in each of his last three games, the 18th time in his career that he's done that.

* Steven Wright tossed a career-high 122 pitches.

* Wright became the third Red Sox starter to toss three consecutive complete games on the road since Roger Clemens in 1991-92.

 

STARS:

1) Steven Wright

Wright's third complete game of the season was a gem, with just four hits allowed - just three them into the outfield. He's got a 1.79 ERA on the road this season.

2) Xander Bogaerts

In addition to extending his hitting streak to 23 games, Bogaerts had two doubles and knocked in two runs.

3) Marco Hernandez

Hernandez's first big league homer was a big one, extending what had been a two-run lead to a five-run cushion with a three-run blast in the eighth