Commentary

Carl Crawford starts May with bang

Updated: May 2, 2011, 9:21 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Terry Francona has won more games than any Red Sox manager except for Joe Cronin, and more World Series this century than anyone in baseball, and not once has he sought help from the media in making out his lineup card.

So understand that this advice is (A) unsolicited and (B) will be regarded as about as useful as a 3-day-old chaw of tobacco.

But here goes anyway: The days of hitting Carl Crawford in the 8-hole should end.

[+] EnlargeCarl Crawford
Elsa/Getty ImagesAfter hitting .155 in April, Carl Crawford is off to a flying start in May, rapping a walk-off hit to lift the Red Sox past the Mariners.

When the Red Sox take the field Monday night against the Los Angeles Angels, Crawford should be restored to the top third of the batting order. It's the right time for Francona to show that he believes April was an aberration and that he expects to see a lot more moments like the winning hit Crawford produced Sunday to beat the Seattle Mariners 3-2.

Personally, I'd lobby for the 2-hole because that's what Crawford has always preferred, but a strong case can be made that Crawford should hit third, with Dustin Pedroia remaining between Jacoby Ellsbury and Crawford. We'll leave it to Francona to figure that one out.

But the belief here is that the only reason Crawford hasn't made his spot in the order an issue is because he wants to demonstrate that he is a good citizen and not a $142 million prima donna. Oh, that and when you have the second-worst average in the big leagues for the month of April, as he did batting .155, you don't have much negotiating leverage.

But May is a new month, and with his walk-off single Sunday afternoon, Crawford couldn't have made a better case that his fortunes and the calendar are turning at the same time.

"Everything I hit seemed like it was an out," said Crawford, who had been just 1 for his past 17 until flaring a single to left off Felix Hernandez in the seventh. That preceded his winner up the middle off Jamey Wright. "So to see it get through was like a big weight was off my shoulders. I just felt good it was a game-winning hit and we could celebrate afterward."

Celebrate? Pedroia exploded out of the dugout like he'd been given a hotfoot, and David Ortiz was in sprint mode, not far behind, to collar Crawford in the infield. "You saw that?" Ortiz said, giggling. "I was kind of tired afterward.

"I was so happy for him, bro. Oh man, that's great. That's the kind of thing that builds up your confidence. You go home, you finish the day like that, it just gets you going, man. I don't think there was one human being who wasn't happy for him."

Crawford has hit in five different spots in the batting order, spending six of the past seven games in the 8-hole. The shuffling began the third game of the season, when Francona dropped Crawford from the 3-hole to the 7-hole against Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison. Then it went 2, 1, 7 again and 8.

That's not customary treatment for a four-time All-Star, especially one trying to find his place on a new team. Francona, to his credit, always made sure to tell the player what he was doing and why, but judging by first impressions, Crawford doesn't seem the type to make waves, especially when he's still so new. He may have been too willing, in fact, to acquiesce.

Francona, of course, was only trying to take some of the pressure off Crawford, and a case could be made that it didn't matter where Crawford batted in the order, he was going to endure an awful April. But going forward, it's time to restore Crawford to his proper place in the order, and let him show why the Sox invested all that money in him.

"It was awesome," pitcher Tim Wakefield said, after watching on a clubhouse TV as Crawford came through. "He's a great guy, a great teammate. He'll produce. He's too good not to."

Agreed.

"You never know what gets you started," Crawford said, "but this was definitely a good start and hopefully I can improve on it."

The Sox, at 11-15, finished April with the worst record in the American League East, and only Minnesota had a worse record (9-17) in the AL. This would be a good time for both the club and Crawford to begin moving on up.

"Kind of as a team, we all talked about it today," Crawford said. "Just put the month of April behind us, and it's a new month, want to start fresh, act like last month never happened.

"I figure if I just keep on keeping on, things will turn around."

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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