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Crawford takes another step toward return

Posted Sep 29, 2008 by Tribune Sports

Updated Sep 29, 2008 at 04:10 PM

It wasn’t Carl Crawford at his best, but it was Carl Crawford pain free, and that was good news for the Rays on Monday.

The two-time All-Star played five innings in left field and batted five times in a fall instructional league game that was moved from the Naimoli Complex to Tropicana Field. Though he went 0-for-4 at the plate, Crawford had no apparent difficulty with the hand injury that has limited him to only a couple of recent defensive appearances since Aug. 9.

Afterward, Crawford submitted that he’s proven he’s ready to be in the lineup for Thursday’s opening Division League Series playoff game.

“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.”

In his first four at-bats, the left-handed-hitting Crawford popped out to short, flew out to the warning track in right center, struck out swinging on an off-speed pitch and popped out to second. In his fifth at-bat, he was hit by a pitch between the shoulder blades. He took first base, stole second base easily and scored a run.

Defensively, Crawford made a nice running catch on a line drive early in the game.

He said his troublesome hamstrings feel good - encouraging news for the Rays, since hamstring problems had cut Crawford’s base stealing production this season.

“I think that’s the one good thing that’s happened out of this whole thing,” Crawford said. “I got a chance to rest my legs. I felt good running today. Hopefully, I’ll be able to run in the playoffs.”

Rays manager Joe Maddon, dressed casually, arrived to watch Crawford after his first at-bat. He disappeared into the clubhouse while Crawford was working out, then dashed to a scouting meeting.

Hitting coach Steve Henderson watched Crawford’s at-bats and said that other than needing to get his timing back, he looked good.

Crawford underwent surgery Aug. 14 for a subluxation of his right middle finger tendon. At the time, he was hitting .273 with eight home runs and 57 RBIs and was in the midst of an 11-game hitting streak.

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