Crawford 'nervous' but happy to be back

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Crawford 'nervous' but happy to be back

BOSTON Left fielder Carl Crawford returned to the Red Sox lineup Monday night for the first time since Sept. 28, when his futile attempt at a sliding catch on Robert Andinos sinking liner ended the season in Baltimore.

Crawford returned Monday after missing the first 89 games recovering from surgery on his left wrist in mid-January and a subsequent sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.

Im just happy that Ill be playing in a big league game today, Crawford said. Its been awhile so Im a little nervous and all the nerves get a little worked up so at the end of the day Im just happy to be knowing Ill be back on the field.

Crawford played 10 rehab games, batting a combined .306 (11-for-36) with six runs scored, two RBI, and two stolen bases in three attempts playing for the Sox Gulf Coast League team (five games), Double-A Portland (three), and Triple-A Pawtucket (three).

Just what I normally do -- a little speed, playing some defense, get back to doing the things I normally did in Tampa., Crawford said of what he hopes to add to the team.

With the exception of Dustin Pedroia, manager Bobby Valentine has a lineup that finally looks like what he had planned on. Crawford, he said, has been cleared by the medical staff to play regularly.

Hes capable of playing a lot and he says hed like to play as often as possible, Valentine said. But well monitor his health situation like we monitor everyones and if he needs a day off well give it to him.

Crawford will be batting second. He had just 45 at-bats in that spot last season, a spot in which he has more career at-bats than any other spot in the lineup.

Definitely excited about it, Crawford said. Its no secret I like being at the top of the order. Just one of those things where I was basically getting prepared to hit anywhere in the lineup but since I saw the second theres definitely a little more excitement for me. I want to go out and try to play my best.

Seemed like the logical thing to do, Valentine said. Hes playing left field, Daniel Nava was playing left field. Daniel Nava was batting second. Its the least disruptive of anything and its like a no-brainer to me.

In addition to rebounding from his injuries, Crawford is hoping to improve on his 2011 season, his first with the Sox and the worst offensive season of his career (.255, 11 homers, 56 RBI).

I dont know if I have to prove something but I definitely want to prove to myself that I can still play this game at a high level, to contribute to the team and try to play to help make the team win, he said.

This year I said I said I wanted not to put as much pressure on myself like I did last year. So Im just going to try to relax a little bit more and understand what I need to do and understand what my game is and how I can help the team out and stick to that.

He acknowledged that last season, and the first part of this season, have not been easy on him.

Its been really frustrating for me, he said. Ive had to stay strong mentally, basically I can take care of the physical part. It was mentally that I broke down a little bit so I think Im in a good place now and understand some things better and having had that approach I think will help me out a lot this year.

Last year I think I lost a lot of confidence in myself and this year I was able to get that back and just not reading so much stuff and watching so much TV. When you have so much negative stuff about you being said you have to just kind of put that stuff behind you and go out there and have confidence in yourself and believe in yourself and thats pretty much it.

Crawford acknowledged last week, though, after his first rehab game with Pawtucket on Thursday, that he felt pressure to return to the lineup.

Its the Red Sox, they want the best team out there, he said. Im not saying anything bad about the other guys but they want to see everybody out there and I understand that and Im a big part of the puzzle that was supposed to help win the championship so I want to get back out there and try to help. Looking at it that way, you want to try to get back out there as fast as you can.

My body feels good. other than the little elbow issue, everything feels fine. My legs feel good, everything feels fine.

His elbow is still nagging at him, and hes acknowledged he will likely need surgery at some point. It doesnt bother him at the plate. But hes adjusted his throwing mechanics to accommodate his elbow. Hell also be looking for the cut-off man on throws from the outfield, rather than attempting long throws. But, in certain situations that may change.

You definitely want to try to hit the cutoff man every time, he said. Im going to be trying to do that, meaning like if a guys tagging up from third base from home and I feel like I can make the thrown, Im not going to try to hit the cutoff man. Im going to try to throw him out at home. Certainly little situations that cause me to throw the ball hard, I think I can make some throws. I just have to be careful with which ones I make.

But his arm, along with that of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who returned from the DL on Friday, has never been either fielders main weapons, Valentine said. They drilled customized cutoff plays in spring training to accommodate the pair.

All spring training we worked on relay system for a center fielder and our left fielder that we really never implemented except for those first eight days with Ells, Valentine said. So we have our shortstop and our second baseman available for these throws because we watched last year and Ells and Carl really didn't have the arm strength to deliver the ball real far. So thats all in place. We just haven worked on it since spring training. Very much.

For now, Crawford is looking forward to just playing baseball.

I hope that day is pretty soon, he said. I dont know when the elbow will stop hurting fully but at this point I feel Im in a good place where I can just go out and play baseball. Right now when I take the field Im not worried about my elbow. Im not worried about my legs. Im not worried about nothing but trying to win the game, so thats a big step for me, just knowing that at 7 o'clock Im feeling good.

Pedro Martinez talks about one of the greatest games he's ever pitched

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Pedro Martinez talks about one of the greatest games he's ever pitched

CSN baseball analyst Lou Merloni sits down with Pedro Martinez and Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis to discuss one of Pedro's greatest games. 

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On September 10, 1999 at the height of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, Pedro Martinez struck out 17 Yankees in a complete game victory, with the only hit he allowed being a home run to Chili Davis. The two men recall that memorable night in the Bronx, and discuss the state of pitching in 2017.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."