Crawford settles into the Red Sox spotlight

Crawford settles into the Red Sox spotlight
February 28, 2011, 11:39 pm
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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