Crawford had batted near the top of the order for much of his tenure with the Rays, so the four-time All-Star was understandably a bit thrown off when he was getting shifted around the Boston lineup. Some of that movement had to do with Crawford's struggles, but it was also a product of the makeup of the Red Sox lineup and the depth that the team features offensively.
Heading into this season, Crawford is ready to contribute out of whichever spot new manager Bobby Valentine puts him in the order, and it could again fluctuate given the amount of variables in play. But it's one of the more important decisions Valentine will face when the Sox break camp.
Jacoby Ellsbury has been the team's primary leadoff man, but with his 32-home run, 105-RBI output in 2011, it'd be understandable if Valentine wanted to move him down in the order to give him more opportunities to drive in runs.
If that ends up being the case, the Sox could turn to Crawford or Dustin Pedroia to take over the leadoff duties. Or even if Ellsbury remains in the leadoff spot, there's still a chance that the Sox skipper will look to slide Crawford into the No. 2 hole, which would probably shift Pedroia down to third and Adrian Gonzalez down to cleanup (or vice versa).
Pedroia doesn't quite fit the mold of a cleanup hitter, although he did thrive in that role when called upon in 2011. Placing him there permanently with Crawford batting second would give the Sox three left-handed hitters in a row atop the lineup, something that will surely be taken into consideration as well.
Crawford's speed would definitely be an asset near the top of the order if he can return to All-Star form in 2012, as he would have an opportunity to score plenty of runs with some boppers coming up behind him. However, Valentine could decide to keep him further down in the order to provide some offensive punch down there, and to keep the potent top half intact.
In other words, the Red Sox could end up featuring plenty of different lineups this season based on matchups, but where is the best place for Crawford as he looks to rebound from a down year?
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