As we did yesterday, I am continuing on the journey of young Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Carl Crawford and the string of injuries that have haunted him in his short career. As of this time, Crawford is the longest tenured Rays player, but for how long might he still be in the Rays sunburst? Speculation is that the team will be deciding before the beginning of the season as of it they should pick up his $ 10 million dollar option for 2010. Also of interest is that fact that numerous times Crawford has made comments about Tropicana Field’s Field Turf artificial surface as being too hard and rough on him in his time here.
So could the Trop be the reason that Crawford might not play here after 2010. Most of his key injuries have come at home, so there might be a lot of credibility to the fact that the surface has an effect on him and his playing style. But do not read into this that he doesn’t hustle or dive for balls on the artificial surface. To the contrary, it seems that he is more at ease on the Trop’s plastic grass because of his familiarity of the stadium and what will happen when he hit the turf. But could that same turf that has been the backdrop of many of his ESPN Web Gems also be the culprit in his time off the roster and the lineup.
We delived into the 2005-2006 season yesterday and will begin with 2007 today and roll onto the present time. In 2006, Crawford missed the final two games of the season again for his sore wrists. He did however win his first Pays MVP award in 2006, and had high hopes for the 2007 season. But beginning in early Spring Training Crawford would again be wearing wrist sleeves to combat pain the his was enduring while swinging the bat. The aliment that plagued him at the end of the 2006 season had not heal 100 percent, but Crawford did not stop participating, concluding it might be scar tissue or only tightness at the time.
Then during a spring training game on March 22rd, Crawford hit a triple in the game and sprinted around the bases before coming up at third. That would be his only hit of the game and he did not show signs of a tinge or any pain while standing on third base. But the next day Crawford was sat down to relax a strained groin that had tightened up on him during the night. Crawford recovered from this incident and remained healthy to start the season for the Rays. It was not until May 7th, after a 6-game home stand that Crawford again commented to the St Petersburg Times about the turf and his body.
But Crawford played on not complaining or showing any signs of discomfort, until on July 21st against the New York Yankees when he sprained his ankle while on first base. It seems that he has jammed his foot into the base during a single in the 4th inning. He was replaced by Greg Norton in the game. The Rays had preliminary X-rays taken,which came back negative. His left ankle did not have any stress fractures or breaks, but after conferring with the Rays medical staff, he will wear an air brace for a few days. He ends up sitting out two games with the sprain, and played again on July 24th against the Baltimore Orioles on a wet field.
But July was not kind to Crawford as on July 27th during a game against the Red Sox he went in for a diving play and caught the ball and the turf with his glove. A seam from the turf caught his glove and pulled it underneath him after the sliding catch. Crawford sat out one game before coming on as a defensive replacement during the July 29th contest, but was not allowed to hit in the game. On the 29th the team decided to send him for an MRI on his left wrist to rule out any damage. After the game Crawford spoke to the St Petersburg Times and said, “I never hurt my wrist like this before,” said Crawford, who was used as a defensive replacement Sunday. “I’m just leaving it alone right now. It hurts just to grip the bat. I haven’t even picked up a bat. Probably wait another day or so and see. I’ll know more tomorrow.”
The MRI did not show ant damage, and after another day of rest and relaxation, Crawford was hitting in the understands batting cages on Monday. The results of his batting cage episode is that he will again not play in that Monday’s contest. But after coming into that Monday night contest against the Toronto Blue Jays, Crawford remained in the lineup and did have to take swings during the game. Crawford looked to be in pain during his first at bat, but later in the game, with a full count, he hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning for the Rays win. Even though he did muscle the ball out of the park, you could see the look of pain on his face on the video screen during the plate appearance.
Crawford came back two days later and remained healthy until September 16th in Seattle, when he strained his left groin in the 9th inning of the contest. Crawford would end up missing the entire next series against the Los Angeles Angels. Crawford told the Tampa Tribune, I’m just still not sure yet, because right now I don’t even like walking on it,” he said. “I think I might try to ride the bike or something tomorrow, but as of right now it’s uncomfortable for me to walk.” After several days, Rays Manager Joe Maddon was asked by Marc Topkin of the St Petersburg Times about the progress of Crawford’s injury, “We’ll stay with the plan of getting home after the off day and see where we’re at, but we’re not seeing a whole lot of definitive progress. By early next week, we should have a clearer idea of whether Crawford will be able to return to action this season.”
Crawford was enthusiastic to be able to play in the last home stand of the season for the team, but he shutdown by the Rays medical staff on September 25th. He did finish his best season in the majors with a .315 batting average, with 50 steals in 60 attempts. the off season was a bit rough for him as rumors swirled daily considering trades with teams like the Yankees, and Brewers. He was also rumored to be dealt to the Chicago Cubs and reunite with former Rays Manager Lou Pinella. But the team never had any pressure to move the fast left fielder as they had control of him for the next three seasons. A trade, if any, would have been made to upgrade the team instead of remove salary. The Rays did trade Delmon Young, which ended all talks about Crawford in the 2007 off season.
Crawford showed his commitment to the team early in 2008, when on March 5th in a Spring Training game against the Houston Astros, Crawford came in with a shoulder charge on Astros catcher Humberto Quintero in the 4th inning. It was an early sign that Crawford was healed and looking forward to the season. Then on March 15th, he was experiencing some leg tightness and Rays Maddon decided the rest him for a few days. Unlike other spring trainings for the Rays, the rest of the exhibition season went off without any injuries or concerns for Crawford.
His 2008 season was going pretty good when he experienced some knee soreness. He was then put on a separate plane to go to Alabama and see Dr. James Andrews to look at both his knee and hamstring. According to the MRI, there was no damage and he got on a plane to rejoin the team in Boston that night. Crawford was a pinch-hitter in his only appearance on Tuesday after rejoining the team in Boston. That Thursday night game was the infamous Coco Crisp brawl in which Crawford is seen my television cameras wailing on Crisp on the bottom of the pile. He received a 4-game suspension for his actions, but getting out to the pile, Crawford did not exhibit any pain to his knee.
On June 13th, he began to serve his suspension, but the team also thought this was the right moment to give him some time off as he was banged up and was visually showing signs of fatigue on and off the field. He came back after the suspension and remained out on the field until July 13, when he was benched for a sore hamstring in the midst of a 0-25 hit less streak. The injury was not severe, but the Rays were in Cleveland at the time and Maddon believed the extra rest going into the All-Star break would be beneficial to Crawford’s second half health. Crawford did return to the field on July 18th against the Blue Jays.
Crawford remained healthy until on August 4th, he was replaced by Eric Hinske before the game because of hamstring soreness. The measure was purely precautionary, but it was stated that Crawford did not know if one day would do the trick for his injury. He ended up sitting for three games. On August 7th, he told the St Petersburg Times, “I feel strong enough to go full speed. That was the reason we wanted to rest these three days so I can play at full speed and not have to worry about playing at like 70 percent.” Manager Joe Maddon indicated that Crawford has a good chance to rejoin the lineup Thursday night against the Mariners.
He did return on August 8th, and went 1-3, with a walk in his return to the lineup. But his joy was short lived as the team placed him on the 15-day disabled list on August 10th for a right hand injury. Crawford said he felt a pop in his hand during his final at-bat of Saturday’s game. If he has ligament damage, then he could miss at least a month and possibly the rest of the season. Right now, he’s optimistic that he’ll be back when his 15 days are up.
On August 12th, it was announced that Crawford was debating on if to have surgery and miss from 6-8 weeks of the season, all but knocking Crawford out for the season. But he also stated that going the non-surgical route for recovery would likely also keep him out for the remainder of the regular season. “It’s about the same for both, six-eight weeks,” Crawford told the St. Petersburg Times. Quite a change from 48 hours ago, when Crawford was hopeful that he’d return in two weeks. Coupled with the injury to rookie sensation Evan Longoria, this put the Rays in an odd position coming into their last home series against the Boston Red Sox without their 2 players. On August 14th, Crawford went in to repair the torn tendon band on his right hand.
On September 16th, Crawford met with his doctors and was told he was ahead of schedule and might be in line to be reactiviated the last week of the season. He has not been given clearance to swing a bat yet, but could still return in late September, early October. But Crawford did say that he was about 14 days away, which put his postseason participation in doubt for the first time.
On September 19th, Maddon stated that Crawford would be put on the postseason roster even though he would be unable to play in the first round of the playoffs. But he still had value to the team as a defensive replacement and a pinch runner. Maddon also stated that Crawford was a “ways away” from hitting again this season. Crawford told the St Petersburg Times, “If the Rays do make it to the World Series or the second round, whenever I have a chance to come back, I’ll just be happy to get back whenever I can.”
Then on September 24th, Crawford madse his first attempt at hitting baseballs off a tee, and towards regaining his spot in left field for the Rays. But in a statement earlier in the day, Rays Manager Joe Maddon said that Crawford was unlikely to be available for the first round of the playoffs, but his surgically repaired right hand apparently held up well after hitting balls off a tee Monday. “I hope I’m playing next week; now if they’re going to let me play, that’s a different story,” Crawford told the St. Petersburg Times, “Definitely in my mind I want to be in the lineup by next week. If I’m able to go out there and do the stuff I did today then I should be able to get in the lineup, whether it’s good or bad.”
But Crawford is anxious to get out there and hit and was a bit upset when he talked to the Tampa Tribune that same day. “I was [going to take batting practice], but then they pulled back on that because the doctor don’t want me swinging this early still,” he said. “I feel good. I feel like I could play a game today if I had to, but it’s just kind of put on hold right now. Two days later on September 26th the Rays announced that if Crawford was activated off the disabled list, and if he still felt fine after batting practice, then the Rays likely would carry him on their postseason roster. Still, just penciling him in as the everyday left fielder and No. 2 hitter could prove to be a mistake. Of the 12 Rays players with at least 200 at-bats this year, Crawford ranks 11th in OPS, and he hasn’t faced live pitching in seven weeks.
But the next day he faced his first live pitching since his injury on August 29th. According to the Tampa Tribune, Crawford drove a couple balls over the right-center field fence. “He looked good, there was no hesitation,” said manager Joe Maddon. “I didn’t see any flinching, I didn’t see him favor it one time. It looked absolutely normal.” Crawford will take B P again Sunday and could end up on the Rays’ ALDS roster. Crawford had another successful round of batting practice Sunday morning and is expected to play in an instructional league game Monday and could rejoin the Rays for the first round of the playoffs on Tuesday.
Carl Crawford, hoping to show that he should be in Tampa Bay’s lineup Thursday, went 0-for-4 in an instructional league game on September 29th. Crawford has missed seven weeks after finger surgery but told the Tampa Tribune, “I think I did enough today,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t get hits, but I showed that the bat speed [is fine], and tomorrow, I’ll probably do the same thing. So if it’s a tough decision after that, then I don’t really know what to say. I’m trying to make it as easy as possible for them.” The Rays agreed with him and added him to their ALDS roster the following day.
This was not the last adventure with injury for Crawford in 20908, during Batting Practice on October 6th he was hit in the head after Dioner Navarro was outside the cage swinging the bat. Crawford was okay and will not miss any time for the Rays in the playoffs. So as you can see from the last two posts, Crawford has had a variety of injuries while with the Rays, and his wrist might not be totally healed. But coming into the 2009 Spring Training there is no anticipation or worry about him again putting up great numbers for the Rays.
But if the team sees any responses to prior problems with the turf at Tropicana Field could we see Crawford maybe in another uniform in 2010 or beyond. Medically the turf does have less give and take than normal grass playing surfaces. Also during sliding catches and falls to the turf you can sustain a bigger rash or scrape because of the plastic threads of the playing field. We will have to keep an eye on Crawford in 2009 and see if he is laboring at anytime or experiencing any hardship on the surface. But with the “old school” mentality of Crawford, will we know before it is too late?
For the last couple of years Ray starting left fielder Carl Crawford has been running into physical problems in the early parts of the year, and near the end of the season. Is this due to the fact that Crawford plays balls to the wall every game, or could there be some sort of truth to the point that Tropicana Field’s artificial Field Turf might be Crawford’s Achilles heel. The reason I bring this up is a St Petersburg Times piece by Marc Topkins way back on May 7, 2007, that has Crawford stating for the record, ” My legs have been bothering me a lot because of the turf,” Crawford said. “We have been on it a lot, here and in Minnesota for four days. It is too thick. We need to get a boat show or something in here to flatten it out. This turf hurts real bad. The old turf felt better. I am just sore.”
So could the Field Turf that was installed at Tropicana Field be an underlying reason for some of the physical aliments he has sustained over the past few seasons, or is playing hard baseball the true culprit. Ever since Crawford first came up for good replacing Dave McCarty, who was designated for assignment by the Rays, he has had some sort of lingering injury or twinge. But Crawford looks at injuries with a bit of the “Old School” mentality and tries his best to play through pain and stiffness to help the team. But now is the time, before the team has to consider if they want to pick up his 2010 option of $ 10 million for the season. Crawford has been a sparkplug in the Rays lineup since he came up, but his injuries have come at the weirdest time for himself and the Rays. Let’s go back to the 2004 season and work towards the upcoming 2009 reporting date.
In September 28, 2005, Crawford was benched for a sore left wrist and did mostly pinch-runner and designated hitting for the rest of the season. Crawford rested the wrist for a month, then the Rays sent him to Tampa hand specialist John Rayhack, who did an MRI and diagnosed Crawford with irritated cartilage. So the treatment was for Crawford to partake in no off season strength workouts and to rest the wrist. Then came the World Baseball Classic and Crawford was called upon to be a speed figure for Team USA, but after taking some extended swings during Batting Practice in February 2006, he experienced more left wrist pain and after consulting the medical staff, decided to pull out of the new International baseball event.
After consulting with Ron Porterfield, the Rays Head Trainer, Crawford shut down all baseball related activities for two weeks hoping it might heal in time for Spring Training. Speculation is that this is a lingering bone bruise that he suffered in September 2005, and that for some reason it did not heal correctly. It is estimated that bone bruises sometimes take as long as 4-6 months to fully heal. At the point of the pain in the WBC training camp, it had been under 4 months time, so the healing process might not have been totally completed when he began to swing the bat again.
Crawford finally got a chance to hit in 2006 when on February 24th, he went to the plate for the first time that season. After the game, Bill Chastain from Devilrays.com got a quote from Crawford on the injury. “It felt good,” he said. “I hit some balls hard.” Crawford’s wrist still isn’t perfect, but he seems to be making steady progress. “Obviously, if I move my wrist in a certain direction, I might feel a slight pain,” he said. “But the way I’m swinging the bat, there’s no pain there right now. I’ll call that a step forward.” But that was only the beginning of troubles for Crawford in 2006.
On April 20th, Crawford came out of the lineup and it was reported that he could not even swing the bat because of the shoulder discomfort. After again consulting with the Rays medical staff, he decided to gut it out and play with the injury. “I’m from the old school a little bit,” Crawford said in a St Peterburg Times interview. “A lot of guys probably think I’m crazy for playing. But I was always brought up, if nothing is broke then you can play.” The injury may hurt Crawford’s hitting, but he should still be able to run plenty.
In May, it was discovered that Crawford was still wrapping the wrists daily and also began to wear wrist sleeves to combat the fact he was letting go of the bat too early in his swings. This robbed him of his power stroke and up to that point in the season, only had 1 home run. But the wildest injury of his career was coming up for Crawford. While the team was in Baltimore for a series, he was complaining on a missed call at home plate in the 4th inning of a Thursday night game in Camden Yards when he came down wrong and injured his left knee on the landing. Video tapes show that he came down on the side of his foot near the batters box and lost grip on the loose clay and twisted on his landing. Crawford sat out the next 3 games before finally starting again in left for the Rays.
Crawford remained modestly healthy the rest of the year until the end of the season. But things on the field began to look up for him, as on September 26th he was selected by the local BBWAA chapter as the teams MVP for the 2006 season. Crawford at that point was leading the American League in triples ( 16 ) and steals ( 58 ) and looked to be finally taking step towards stardom beyond just Tampa Bay. Four days later, he was again sidelined by a sore left wrist and the Rays shut him down for the season.
With his injuries during the 2005 and 2006 season, could a pattern be developing for Crawford that lingering effects from both his wrist and his shoulder might hinder his future seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. And could it really be true that the artificial turf at Tropicana Field be so hard that it doesn’t give in to players hitting it at top speed? Athletes get hurt playing sports, they also sometimes do not have adequate time to heal because they feel a need to help the team. Could Crawford just be a quiet example of a long lost tradition in baseball of trying to play through pain, or could that long expansive green carpet be a hidden reason for his rash of injuries. Tomorrow we will look at the 2007 and 2008 seasons and see if the Trop’s turf, or playing in the most competitive division in baseball might have more effect on Crawford’s health.