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

Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

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Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Notes, quotes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Rays:

QUOTES:

* "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully, the tests come back clean.'' -Andrew Benintendi, on the uncertainty surrounding his knee injury.

* "Sometimes, I like that, sometimes I don't because I'd kind of take a couple of quick outs in place of those to get a couple of more innings out there.'' -Drew Pomeranz on his career high 11 strikeouts.

* "That's probably the spot that looms the largest. Jackie's become more aggressive early in the count, but at the same time, that aggressiveness can work against you.'' -Farrell on Jackie Bradley Jr. swinging at the first pitch following a walk with the bases loaded.

NOTES:

* Drew Pomeranz recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts

 * Since moving to the leadoff spot, Dustin Pedroia has a slash line of .397/.418/.460 in 16 games.

* Pomeranz has yielded two runs or fewer in five consecutive starts.

* On the just-completed road trip, the Red Sox led in all but one game.

* Thursday's loss was the fourth this season in which the Sox allowed two runs or fewer.

 * The past 18 Red Sox losses have come by a combined 37 runs.

* Until Thursday, the Red Sox had won 20 of their past 31 day games.

* The bottom third of the makeshift Red Sox lineup combined to go 2-for-12.

* The Sox missed out on a chance to have an eight-win road trip, which would have been their first since 2011.

STARS:

1) Jake Odorizzi

The Rays started, facing a depleted Red Sox lineup, limited the Sox to a single run over seven innings, allowing just five hits and getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by allowing just one run.

2) Mikie Mahtook

Mahtook was 0-for-34 when facing Drew Pomeranz in the seventh inning, but that didn't stop him from doubling home Steven Souza Jr with what proved to be the winning run.

3) Dustin Pedroia

The Sox couldn't generate much of anything at all offensively, but don't blame Pedroia. The leadoff hitter had three hits and a walk and was on base four times for the Sox.

Benintendi's MRI inconclusive; will undergo more tests Friday in Boston

Benintendi's MRI inconclusive; will undergo more tests Friday in Boston

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Andrew Benintendi saga will continue for at least one more day, as an MRI taken here Thursday morning was, in the words of John Farrell, "inconclusive" and the rookie left fielder will undergo more tests Friday in Boston.

"Our doctors want to get him back to a full exam with (team orthopedist) Dr. [Peter] Asnis," Farrell said after the 2-1 loss to the Rays, which concluded the team's 11-game road trip. "Hopefully, when I speak to you all [Friday] afternoon (at Fenway Park, prior to the team's game against Royals), there will be a little more information on this."

Farrell said Friday's tests "will include some other imaging".

The Sox placed Benintendi on the 15-day disabled list after he injured his left night while running the bases Wednesday night. 

"We're going to do some more tests tomorrow and take it day-by-day," he said. "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully the tests come back clean.''
 
Benintendi found one sliver of hope:
 
"The more I walk on it, the better it feels. I'm going to stay as positive as I can.'' 

First impressions of Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to Rays

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First impressions of Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First Impressions from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field:

 

* When the guy who was 0-for-34 produces the go-ahead RBI, it's probably not your day.

The Red Sox and Rays were tied 1-1 in the seventh when Steven Souza Jr. singled to lead off the inning. That brought Mikie Mahtook, hitless in his last 34 at-bats to the plate.

Naturally, Mahtook roped a line-drive double to left field, scoring Souza all the way from first base. It was that kind of day for the Red Sox, who were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and stranded five baserunners.

For a team that still leads the majors in runs scored, the Red Sox have shown an uncanny ability to go cold at the plate.

On Thursday afternoon, that happened again, while the most unlikely hero for Tampa Bay came through in an improbable spot.

 

* The Red Sox' struggles with the bases loaded is almost comical.

It happened again.

In the sixth inning, the Red Sox loaded the bases with no out. Mookie Betts then hit a sacrifice fly to left, scoring one run. Hanley Ramirez then walked, re-loading the bases, this time with one out.

But Jackie Bradley Jr. then swung at the first pitch and hit into an inning-ending, rally-killing 4-6-3 double play.

In two plate appearances with the bases loaded, the Sox failed to get a hit.

The Sox are hitting .216 with the bases loaded (24-for-111), ranking them 14th in the American League. Only Seattle and Detroit have had more bases-loaded opportunities, and yet the Red Sox rank in the second half in runs scored in such situations.

 

* Drew Pomeranz is showing no signs of innings fatigue

True, Pomeranz failed to provide a shutdown inning in the sixth after the Red Sox had gotten him a run in the top of the inning.

Still, Pomeranz pitched into the seventh and allowed just two runs while striking out a season-high 11 batters.

In his past five starts, he's compiled a 2.37 ERA, and both the power to his fastball and the sharpness to his curve offer no evidence that he's hit any sort of wall despite already establishing a career high at the major league level with five weeks remaining in the season.