Preferring trade over bench, Crisp might ask to be dealt
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Coco Crisp, who lost his center field job to rookie Jacoby Ellsbury in the postseason, said Wednesday he'd probably talk to the Boston Red Sox about trading him if it appears he won't get his starting job back.
"Honestly, I think so because I want to play," Crisp said before his spring training workout. "I wouldn't be happy sitting on the bench."
He's not even certain he'll get an equal chance in the competition for the job. Manager Terry Francona said Wednesday it would be.
"I'm not sure," Crisp said calmly when asked if the battle for the job with the prized prospect will be fair. "I'm not sure how everything's going to break down. I'm really unsure of a lot of things this year."
The 28-year-old Crisp started 145 games last year and played outstanding defense. But he batted only .268 in his second season with Boston after being obtained from Cleveland to replace Johnny Damon, who signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees.
The 24-year-old Ellsbury started the season at Double-A Portland. After being recalled Sept. 1, he played in 26 games, hitting safely in 23 of them and finishing the season with a .353 average with nine stolen bases in 33 games.
But after Crisp hit .182 in the first eight postseason games, Ellsbury became the starter in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series and hit .375 in the remaining six games -- two wins against Cleveland and a four-game World Series sweep against Colorado.
"He was hot and I was struggling at that time," Crisp said, "so you got to put who's hot and who's doing the best out there offensively. So I understood it."
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In the offseason, Crisp said, he heard trade rumors involving Minnesota, Texas and the Chicago Cubs. He and Ellsbury were mentioned in reports about talks with the Twins involving pitcher Johan Santana, who went to the New York Mets.
"I would honestly rather be somewhere else and play than be on the bench," he said. "But I'll take whatever comes and deal with it and no knock against Boston. I love the fans. They treated me well."
The possibility of having a disgruntled player is one of the few clouds hanging over the World Series champions. Nearly the entire team that swept Colorado for the title is back. Aside from a shoulder injury that figures to keep Curt Schilling out at least to the All-Star break, the Red Sox are healthy.
And the Red Sox have great depth in the outfield, as long as Crisp stays.
"We want Coco on our team," Francona said. "We have two good center fielders."
But if Crisp sees during spring training that Ellsbury will be the starter, he probably would talk to the team about a trade.
"I can cheerlead with the best of them. It's not what I want to be, though," he said.
If Crisp and Ellsbury stay, the Red Sox would have great speed off the bench and an outstanding late-inning defensive replacement, no matter who starts.
"It's a great problem to have when you have two guys that can play well at one position," third baseman Mike Lowell said.
For Ellsbury, the competition is nothing new.
"When I was in high school, as a freshman, I was fighting for that center field spot and didn't let it get to me," he said. "When I was in college, I was a freshman trying to fight for that center field spot. In pro ball, and now, same thing.
"I went into the offseason and worked hard to be the center fielder. But it's their decision and I respect it either way."
Crisp, further along in his career, would be less accepting. He recalled that Boston was one of his favorite teams while growing up. So it was special when the Red Sox traded for him.
"I had a chance to play here and I'm still here," Crisp said, "as of right now."
LF Manny Ramirez showed up briefly at camp to drop off some equipment then left. Position players undergo physicals Thursday and take part in the first full-squad workout Friday. ... Francona said Josh Beckett will start against Boston College in the spring opener on Feb. 28 and bright pitching prospect Justin Masterson will pitch against Northeastern that night. The scheduled starters in the three games after that, all against Minnesota, are Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press