Carlos Pena, Rays Express Confidence That Former Teammate Carl Crawford Will Impact Red Sox Upon Return

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Carlos Pena, Rays Express Confidence That Former Teammate Carl Crawford Will Impact Red Sox Upon ReturnBOSTON — For nine years, Carl Crawford shined in Tampa Bay. Due to the outfielder's contributions, the Rays ascended from the bottom tier of Major League Baseball to the upper echelon.

Although Crawford plays for Boston, former teammate and Rays first baseman Carlos Pena continues to keep in touch with him. And Pena is abreast of the slew of injuries that have prevented Crawford from taking the field this season.

While Crawford has been the target of criticism — for his lucrative seven-year, $142 million contract — Pena doesn't believe it's warranted. After spending three years as his teammate in Tampa Bay, Pena is a firm believer in Crawford.

"Carl is one of the best players I've seen in my entire life," Pena said. "He's one of the best athletes that I've played with. The impact he can have on a club, you really can't measure it. He's a difference maker. He's a superstar and the sky is the limit for him."

It's been a grueling wait for Crawford. In January, the four-time All-Star underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist. After attempting a comeback in spring training, he ultimately re-aggravated the injury during bunting drills.

Despite being shut down for a few weeks, Crawford returned to action in Fort Myers for extended spring training. Shortly thereafter, an elbow injury flared up and sidetracked Crawford's possible return until July.

Amid all the obstacles in Crawford's path, Pena has witnessed the outfielder at his peak. As a result, he's confident that Crawford will make an impact on the Red Sox' lineup upon his return.

"I always tell him that his time is coming and to stay patient," said Pena, an All-Star himself. "He's a talent that won't fail. If he continues with his work ethic — and he's a super-hard worker — I'm very confident that when he comes back, he'll do well."

Crawford is moving closer to a return since he just started swinging more frequently on Friday.

Have a question for Didier Morais? Send it to him via Twitter at @DidierMorais or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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