BOSTON It was always supposed to be this easy for Carl Crawford.
After a year of struggling with his transition to Boston and another half-season lost to injury, the energetic left fielder is finally starting to look like the guy that the Red Sox lured away with free agency big bucks.
In his first nine games off the disabled list Crawford had no extra base hits and a single RBI while shaking off the rust, but the Sox outfielder has busted out with a .333 batting average, six extra base hits and 9 RBI in his last nine games. Crawford sprayed three hits out of his comfortable No. 2 hole in Sunday afternoons 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins, and showed what he can do in all facets of the game.
He made a nice jumping catch at the base of the Green Monster early in the game, put pressure on the Minnesota defense with his trademark base-running speed and set the table for a Sox offense that was functional for at least one day.
Hes a game-changer, said admiring teammate Adrian Gonzalez, who smashed a two-run homer in the victory. Hes making things happen and hes incredible when he and Jacoby get on base. Today it was Carls turn. With those two guys at the top of the lineup they can make a big difference.
Oh, and it was his 31st birthday as well.
Id like his birthday to be every day, said Bobby Valentine. Hes hitting with two strikes, hes hitting the ball hard, stealing bases, and advancing runners. He had damn-near a perfect game.
When hes like that he can make a big difference for us.
Interestingly enough Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan attributed Crawfords recent success to refined plate discipline. Anybody watching the speedy Sox outfielder over the last season-and-a-half knows how bad Crawford can look when hes swinging wildly at pitches out of his happy hitting zone.
Overall hes still hitting at a .279 clip in his first 18 games back this season, but hes simply done a better job of recognizing his pitches and hammering them with impunity.
Hes made some mechanical adjustments to free him up a little bit, but his pitch selection has been very good. When he gets a pitch to hit hes barreling it up, said Magadan. A lot of it is confidence. He hit a little bump for maybe 15 at bats after coming back, but he didnt throw everything out the window that hed been working on for adjustments.
The key for him is getting good pitches to hit. When he does that he maximizes his chances of stinging the ball.
His pitches per plate appearance have actually dropped from a career-high 3.89 last year to a 3.63 mark thats more in line with his career averages. So perhaps Crawford has stopped forcing himself to be an overly patient hitter according to the Sox philosophies, and is instead relying on the eye, quick wrists and athletic ability that have allowed him to be the only modern Major Leaguer to record 200 doubles, 100 triples, 100 home runs and 400 stolen bases before his 31st birthday.
I feel good for him. I know that he wants to prove that last year was an aberration, which we all think it was, said Magadan. He was anxious to start the year, but unfortunately he wasnt able to because of injuries. But hes going to make the most of the time hes got now.
Now that Crawford is seemingly healthy enough to play every day and finally looking like the same player he was in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform, everybody is getting a chance to see what the Sox lineup looks like with another impactful game-changer at the top of it.