Crawford settles into the Red Sox spotlight

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Crawford settles into the Red Sox spotlight

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The first reminder, probably one of many on this day, came about 20 minutes before gametime.

Carl Crawford was out doing some short sprints in the outfield and stretching, getting ready for his first Grapefruit League game as a member of the Red Sox, when fans seated in the left-field stands spotted him and began applauding and cheering wildly.

This was Crawford's introduction to life as a Red Sox and surely, there weren't many instances in his time with the Tampa Bay Rays that a simple warmup routine led to such a response.

"I was just trying to take it all in,'' said a smiling Crawford later, after the Red Sox edged the Minnesota Twins, 7-6. "I'm still thinking that I'm actually in a Red Sox uniform. You're thinking about all that stuff and trying to take it all in and try to focus on the game at the same time.''

Crawford had three at-bats in the win, but went hitless. Monday, however, wasn't about results; it was about taking the first step, of experiencing the moment.

"It felt good,'' said Crawford, "just to put the uniform, finally get on the field and play a game. I was a little nervous at first, but I was happy to get that out of the way.''

Like new teammate Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford is undergoing quite a transformation this season. He's gone from a team with small payroll and modest fan support to a city where the baseball team has tradition and a huge, insatiable fan base.

The transition, to date, has been seamless.

"It hasn't been really hard,'' he said. "The guys have made it easy for me. Pretty much everything you need, they take care of it here. It hasn't been bad.''

With interview requests, promotional shoots, photo sessions and other off-field responsibilities behind him, Crawford felt good to be in uniform and on the field.

"It was just playing baseball again,'' said Crawford.

For the time being anyway, Crawford found himself hitting third in the Boston batting order, though Terry Francona took pains to emphasize that not much should be read into the lineup for the second game of the spring.

Crawford hit behind Jacoby Ellsbury (leadoff) and Dustin Pedroia (second), and in front of cleanup hitter David Ortiz.

"That would be fine with me,'' he said of the prospect of being the Red Sox' No. 3 hitter once the regular season starts. "I've got no problem with it. I'm still gonna play the way I play, no matter where he puts me. I'd have a chance to drive in runs and when I get on base, I'd have the big guys behind me Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez so I could still steal and get pitches for those guys to hit.

"So, either way we go, I'm still going to play the way I play.''

No matter what Francona decides, Crawford pointed out, the Red Sox have a powerful offense, capable of scoring plenty of runs and the exact order is almost academic.

"The sky's the limit in my mind,'' he said of the Red Sox lineup's potential. "You've got all these guys who can hit really well and know what they're doing at the plate. Once we all get clicking at the same time, it's going to make it very tough on opposing pitches.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

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Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia used nifty baserunning to score from first base on David Ortiz's double in the 10th inning and the AL East-leading Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Sunday for their 11th consecutive win.

Pedroia singled off Eddie Gamboa (0-1) to start the inning. The relay throw on Ortiz's hit to right center beat Pedroia to plate but he avoided Luke Maile's first tag. Pedroia's momentum carried him past the plate and when he went back to touch it, Maile was charged with an error when the ball dropped out his glove on another tag try.

Pedroia hit a solo homer and Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single for the Red Sox, who secured at least an AL wild-card spot Saturday night. Boston's magic number to clinch the division title dropped to two.

Joe Kelly (4-0) went 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander and Heath Hembree combined to strikeout 11 consecutive batters to establish a major league-record. The New York Mets held the previous mark when Tom Seaver struck out 10 in a row against San Diego on Apr. 22, 1970.

Boston also set a club record by striking out 21 through nine. Kelly added two more in the 10th.

There was a moment of silence before the game for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday. Fernandez played high school baseball in nearby Tampa, Florida after defecting from Cuba.

The Rays planned to honor Ortiz before his final game at Tropicana Field but canceled the ceremony at Ortiz's request after Fernandez's death. He had three hits in five at-bats and moved past Frank Thomas for 107th place on the career list with 2,469 hits.

Ortiz has 35 homers and 90 RBIs at Tropicana Field, which is the most of any visiting player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.

HONORING BIG PAPI

Rays 3B Evan Longoria and RHP Chris Archer informally presented Ortiz with an oil painting of his 500th home run, which he hit at Tropicana Field last season. Ortiz was also given 34 special handmade Diamond Crown Maximus cigars and $5,000 donations in his name to the Miracle League of St. Petersburg, Florida and the University of South Florida Latino scholarship program.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Ortiz will play at Yankee Stadium for the final time during a three-game series against New York that starts Tuesday night. "Playing baseball in New York is something that is very special," Ortiz said. LHP David Price (17-8) will start for the Red Sox Tuesday night.

Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (7-11) will face White Sox RHP James Shields (3-11) Monday night in the first of four games in Chicago.

© 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.