PAWTUCKET – The second and final game of Carl Crawford’s rehab assignment with the Pawtucket Red Sox left much to be desired.
An 0-for-3 showing at the plate and no action in left field in the PawSox’s 11-8 loss to the Durham Bulls on Saturday at McCoy Stadium wasn’t the evening Crawford envisioned before rejoining the Boston Red Sox. Nonetheless, the left fielder departed Pawtucket with at least one reason for optimism: a healthy left hamstring.
Crawford is expected to be activated for Monday’s series opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. He left McCoy during Saturday’s game, at approximately 8:30 p.m., without speaking to print reporters.
According to a PawSox official, Crawford, upset by a newspaper story that revisited his early-season struggles with Boston, told a clubhouse attendant to wait a half-hour after he departed before informing the media that he was ready to talk.
Of course, when the media made its way downstairs at approximately 9 p.m., Crawford was nowhere to be found.
“The fact that he didn’t stick around must mean he’s OK,” Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler said. “He got out of here pretty quick. He got his work and was happy with what he did, got his treatment and got out of here. I didn’t hear anything negative at all.”
Crawford did grant one interview request, to a local television reporter. He expressed no fear of reinjuring his hamstring.
“I’m pretty much past that,” Crawford told the TV reporter. “I had a few chances to test my leg, and I just wanted to go hard like I normally would.”
In his first game since straining his hamstring beating out an infield single during a June 17 contest against the Milwaukee Brewers at Fenway Park, Crawford on Friday played five innings in left and went 1-for-2 with an RBI single, a walk and a run scored.
Saturday provided a similar identical workload for Crawford, who played five more innings in left and received three at-bats – striking out, grounding out and popping out – prior to being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth.
“He’s going to have to get his timing back,” Beyeler said, “but he’s a speed guy. He can put the ball in play and cause some havoc on the bases and play defense. From that standpoint, he’s still a dangerous guy. It’s not like he’s a clogger where if he doesn’t hit he doesn’t bring anything else to the table.”
Though Crawford was eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on July 3, the Red Sox opted for a particularly cautious rehab course for their speedy outfielder.
Signed away from the Tampa Bay Rays by way of a seven-year, $142 million deal in December, Crawford struggled mightily in April. Perhaps trying too hard to justify his mega-contract, the four-time All-Star batted .155 and a .204 on-base percentage while occupying several different lineup slots.
The 29-year-old Houston native showed signs of life in May, hitting .304 with three homers and 15 RBIs. He was batting .278 with two homers and 10 RBIs through 14 June games before his injury.
On Saturday, with one on and one out in the bottom of the first, Crawford struck out swinging on an inside fastball to conclude a five-pitch at-bat against Durham starter Matt Torra.
Brent Dlugach put Pawtucket on the board in the second with a two-out solo home run into the right-center-field bleachers.
Leading off the bottom of the third, Crawford grounded Torra’s 2-2 pitch to the right side of Durham first baseman Dan Johnson, whose toss to a covering Torra beat Crawford to first base for the out.
Following three scoreless innings to begin his outing, PawSox starter Tony Pena Jr. came undone in the Bulls’ seven-run fourth. After Durham loaded the bases with no outs, prompting a mound visit from Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur, Leslie Anderson lined Pena’s first pitch into the left-center-field gap for a two-run double.
Robinson Chirinos’ run-scoring groundout, Ray Olmedo’s RBI double and Desmond Jennings’ two-run double ended Pena’s night. The Dominican right-hander surrendered seven runs, six of which were earned, on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts over 3 1/3 frames.
The PawSox answered right back with a six-spot in the bottom of the fourth. Ronald Bermudez and Che-Hsuan Lin stroked RBI singles, and with runners at the corners and one down, Durham manager Charlie Montoyo called on left-handed reliever R.J. Swindle to pitch to Crawford.
Facing Swindle, a soft-tossing southpaw who entered Saturday’s action having held left-handed hitters to a .170 batting average this season, Crawford worked the count full before fisting a pop-up into the glove of third baseman Daniel Mayora.
A two-out walk to Ryan Lavarnway packed the sacks for Lars Anderson, who launched Swindle’s first pitch well beyond the right-field wall for a grand slam that tied the score at 7.
Crawford’s night came to an end in the bottom of the fifth, when Nate Spears pinch-hit for him with the bases loaded and two out.
Durham forged ahead on Johnson’s RBI single to right with two down in the sixth. The Bulls added a trio of runs in the ninth, two on Anderson’s one-out blast to right.
Lavarnway led off the bottom of the ninth by smoking a homer to left-center, his ninth long ball since joining the PawSox on June 13. The 23-year-old catcher finished 4-for-4 with an RBI, a walk and two runs scored.
“He’s a good hitter,” Beyeler said. “We watched him do that last year [at Double-A Portland], and it’s kind of surprising that he’s done as well as he’s done up here. He comes up there with a good idea at the plate and a good knowledge of the strike zone, and that doesn’t go into a slump.”
Crawford’s rehab results weren’t so pretty, but Beyeler wasn’t raising any red flags.
“He got his work in and hopefully he’s ready to go,” Beyeler said. “Some of these guys, all they need are those big league lights and they’re ready to go. You just never know.”
EXTRA BASES: Boston on Saturday placed right-handed reliever Bobby Jenks on the 15-day DL with left back tightness and summoned left-handed reliever Randy Williams from Pawtucket. “I’m happy for him,” Beyeler said of the 35-year-old Williams, who’s posted a 1.29 ERA with six saves in 19 appearances for the PawSox this season. “Hopefully he can go up there and help them out. He’s got great stuff.” To make room for Williams on the Red Sox’s 40-man roster, lefty reliever Tommy Hottovy was designated for assignment. … Pawtucket on Saturday activated righty reliever Clevelan Santeliz from the seven-day DL. … The timetable for outfielder Ryan Kalish’s return remains uncertain. “It’s just day-to-day with everything,” Beyeler said. “He has his good days and bad days. He swung a little bit and had some issues, so we backed off a little bit. We’re just going to have to keep building him back up and see what he can tolerate.” The left shoulder injury that sent Kalish to the seven-day DL on April 23 is no longer his main source of discomfort. “His shoulder is doing well,” Beyeler said. “He’s just got kind of an upper back/neck thing, some soreness in his neck. I don’t know if they’ve really diagnosed it to be sure what it is, but it’s something back there. Some days he’s fine, other days it’s tight. They just kind of play with it and treat it day-to-day.” … PawSox infielder Hector Luna on Saturday was ejected for arguing balls and strikes after striking out to end the sixth.
Durham 000 701 003 – 11-13-0
Pawtucket 010 600 001 – 8-14-2
Matt Torra, R.J. Swindle (4), Ryan Reid (5), Rob Delaney (7), Dane De La Rosa (9) and Robinson Chirinos. Tony Pena Jr., Jason Rice (4), Clevelan Santeliz (7), Scott Atchison (8) and Ryan Lavarnway.