Crawford's spot in lineup still to be determined

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Crawford's spot in lineup still to be determined

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- So now we know ''how much'' (142 million over the next seven years) and "where" (left field in Boston) regarding Carl Crawford.

Still to be answered: when? As in: when will Crawford's turn come in the Red Sox batting order?

In the past, Crawford was said to be disinclined to batting leadoff.

For much of his major league career, Crawford has hit either first (367 games), second (590 games) or third (201 games) for the Tampa Bay Rays.

At his introductory press conference at Fenway Saturday, Crawford said he had no real objection to hitting first.

''I really don't mind hitting anywhere in the lineup,'' said Crawford. "I think those statements (about not wanting to hit leadoff) came when I was a little younger in my career and (that statement) kind of stayed with me, that I didn't like hitting leadoff. But I definitely don't have a problem hitting anywhere.

"As far as knowing where I'm going to hit, Terry's the manager and I'm pretty sure whatever lineup he makes out, I'll be fine with. I told him I didn't mind (hitting) anywhere; whatever he wants to do with me is fine.''

"When we went down to visit him (in Houston),'' recounted Francona, "we talked about where he was comfortable hitting in the batting order. He was kind of telling me, 'I can hit first, I can hit second, I can hit third.' I told him, 'What we want you do to do is be yourself. We'll sit down with Carl, Pedey (Dustin Pedroia)...obviously, he's going to hit in the top of the order -- (probably) second or third.''

"There are some things to think about,'' said Francona. "It's not an issue for me, because we're not asking to do different things because they're hitting in a different area. We just want them to be the players they are and we'll line it up the way we think it works best.

One of the factors that Francona must address is maintaining as much left-right-left balance in his lineup with a team which has five lefty hitters (Jacoby Ellsbury, Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and J.D. Drew) among its seven best offensive players.

"At some point,'' said Francona, "we're going to have two (lefty hitters) -- maybe three on some days -- in a row. Thankfully, they're good hitters. We'll try to line it up. I need to do some thinking about that.

"The last couple of years, David and J.D. haven't been quite as strong against lefthanders; Adrian has. So there are ways to line it up where you can take away some of the other managers' (flexibility).''

In 2009, Ellsbury's last full healthy season, he improved his ability to get on base with a .355 OBP and is the likely choice to return there.

"I think I've been pretty consistent all along -- our best team is when Jacoby is hitting first,'' said Francona, "whether that's Opening Day, or it's May 1...Whatever is in his best interest, ends up being in our best interest. You know, he missed pretty much the full year. If he's ready to (hit leadoff), that's great. If he's not, we'll give him a little bit of a break and hit him down in the order a little bit. We've done that in the past
and we can do it again.

"But I still think our best lineup is when (Ellsbury) leads off.''

In that scenario, Ellsbury would be followed by, in order: Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Ortiz, Drew, the catcher, and Marco Scutaro.

If Ellsbury isn't fully healthy or is unavailable, another option under consideration would be use Drew, whose lifetime OBP is a stellar .387, as the leadoff hitter.

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