For Carl Crawford, a welcome form of recognition
|05.31.11 at 6:45 pm ET|
For all of April, the attention dedicated to Carl Crawford was difficult for the outfielder to stomach. After a seven-year, $142 million contract brought him to Boston in the offseason, he started his Red Sox career in dreadful fashion.
Paid to be one of the elite performers in the majors, Crawford was arguably the worst, at least in the batter’s box. By the end of the season’s first month, he ranked second-to-last in the majors in average (.155), last in on-base percentage (.204) and last in OPS (.431).
The climb back from that point has been long, but for his first time as a Red Sox, Crawford was able to show last week what one of his hot streaks looks like. And when the outfielder is locked in, he offered a hint that he can be as dynamic as nearly anyone in the game, a notion that was ratified when he was named the American League Player of the Week for May 23-29.
Over seven games, he hit .423 with two doubles, two triples, three homers and eight runs batted in. He had back-to-back four-hit games last Wednesday (against the Indians) and Thursday (in Detroit), the first time in his career that he has accomplished that trick. Though Crawford’s numbers for the season remain modest — a .232 average, .267 OBP and .630 OPS, along with four homers and seven steals — the offensive surge offered a hint that Crawford has now moved on from his early-season woes.
“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m feeling a lot more comfortable at the plate. Things are slowing down for me a lot. I feel like it’s definitely gotten better for me from the way I started off,” said Crawford. “Lately I’ve been playing more relaxed. First month or so, like you said, a lot of pressure on myself. Probably was pressing. Now it seems like things are easing up a little bit. Just hope I can continue to play well.”
Crawford dismissed the notion that his turnaround was as simple as a matter of the weather warming up. That may have been a factor in his slow start (after he spent the first eight seasons of his career roaming the indoors with Tampa Bay), but it would be too easy to use that as the sole explanation for his slow start.
“Playing in warm weather is definitely better than playing in the cold weather. It feels better to have the weather heat up a little bit,” said Crawford. “Weather was tough. [But] everything was tough. It wasn’t just the weather. It was a bunch of things. But you know, I never played in the weather for like months in. it was a little different. But just had to find a way to make adjustments because obviously I’ll be here for six more years.”
That being the case, the Sox can hope that the award — the fourth time that Crawford has been named AL Player of the Week — is a hint of what is to come, and that April will soon be viewed as an aberration.
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