By Maureen Mullen
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Carl Crawford was asked if he was looking forward to traveling to Port Charlotte on Thursday to face the Tampa Bay Rays, his former team, and . . .
Crawford laughed at his questioner's pause and filled in the blank.
Getting it out of the way? he asked with a laugh. Yeah, you know, I want to go over there. I know Im going to get asked a bunch of questions. So might as well get it out of the way in spring training and get it over with.
It will be the first time hell have seen most of his teammates since signing a seven-year, 142 million contract with the Red Sox in December. There will be some emotions involved. The Rays are the team with which he grew up. Selected as a 17-year-old in the second round of the 1999 draft out of Jefferson Davis High in Houston, Crawford spent his entire career with Tampa Bay including nine big-league seasons until this year.
Im looking forward to seeing the guys, he said. I havent seen them since last year. So its going to be fun to go over there and see everybody again.
Told that Rays manager Joe Maddon has said he is looking forward to seeing Crawford and thanking the outfielder for what he did for the Rays, Crawford said:
Thats cool. I had a lot of fun with those guys, a lot of memories. Joe, he was really a big part of turning that organization around. He deserves a lot of credit for that.
Asked to compare Maddon he of the nearly 20,000 Twitter followers -- with his current manager Terry Francona, Crawford smiled and said:
Well Tito seems like hes a little more laid back, not really into the whole TV thing. Joe, he likes to be on TV. Hes like a little celebrity over there.
The Rays are expected to start right-hander Andy Sonnanstine Thursday.
Its going to be weird just being on the other side, period, facing one of the guys you got ready to play games with all the time, and just being in a Red Sox uniform, Crawford said. So, just got to get used to it. Im glad Im getting used to it in spring training.
I will be nice to see everybody. But, after that, we just have to play the game and its going to be business as usual.
Crawford thinks his former team will still be a factor in the American League East this season.
Oh yeah, he said. Whenever you got pitching like that, you're never out of it. Everyone knows pitching wins games. When you got pitchers like they have youre always in it.
But, after watching the Red Sox from across the field for nearly a decade, he knew hed fit in well with his new team.
I wanted to play with these guys, he said. This is a special group right here. I could see myself in this lineup. I could envision myself in this lineup before it actually happened. It was more so, besides the money, of being on a team where I can fit in and play my game and know were going to be winning.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen