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.