July 16, 2012 by Matt Musico
While most people at Fenway Park will be focused on the return of Kevin Youkilis, just 22 days since he was traded from Boston to the Chicago White Sox, there is an important debut on tap for one of Bobby Valentine’s players in Carl Crawford. After sitting out all of 2012 thus far with various injuries, the left fielder has completed his rehab assignment with the Pawtucket Sox, going 2-for-5 yesterday and playing all nine innings in the field. Valentine said he’s not expecting a larger than life impact from Crawford off the bat, but just wants him to be effective as one of his nine players on the field.
In his first season of a 7-year/$142 million contract, Crawford’s performance was underwhelming for Red Sox Nation, hitting .255/.289/.405 with only 18 stolen bases. This was coming after a career year in 2010 for the Tampa Bay Rays, hitting .307/.356/.495 with 19 homers, 90 RBI, and 47 stolen bases. He’s hoping to give a boost to a Red Sox team that is very much in the thick of a potential playoff push, especially with the institution of the second Wild Card spot this season. Before the season started, there was a lot of pressure on Crawford to bounce back and have a season that is closer to his career norms (.293/.333/.441, 51 SBs), and that pressure continued to build with each game he’s missed throughout the first half of the year.
At 45-44 on the season, they are 9.5 games out of first in the AL East and tied for last place with the Blue Jays, but they are 1.5 games out of the Wild Card, and they are poised to make a run as they’re continuing to get healthy with Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz also returning to the active roster. Crawford needs to be at the top of the lineup, setting the table for the big hitters in the middle of the lineup to be the most effective. If he struggles again like last season, it will be hard for Bobby Valentine to find a spot in the order where he can put Crawford. So, the success of Boston could be hanging in the balance with the performance of their $142 million man.
Category Sports | Tags: 2012 MLB playoffs, AL East, AL Wild Card, Bobby Valentine, Boston Red Sox, Carl Crawford returns, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Matt Musico, MLB, On The Way Home