But to impatient Red Sox fans waiting to see the Crawford who wowed them from across the American League East when he played with the Rays, it seems like that's all Crawford can do right now.
He's been injured on his way back from injury so many times, in fact, that some have started to wonder whether he should pull the plug on this season and take another shot at redemption next year — when chances are better both for him and the Sox (43-43).
Crawford is pushing to return now because he wants to be a good teammate. He wants to lift the club that took the chance on him in free agency (do we need to recite the numbers?). He wants to atone for the extra time lost to surgery and recovery, to stalled comebacks and rehab injuries.
But the best thing Crawford can do to help the team is to be as healthy as he can over the length of his contract. That may mean charging back this season and getting some playing time, or it could be taking another surgery now to ensure he'll be ready for 2013. Whatever he chooses, though, Crawford and the team need to decide with the future in mind.
Crawford's latest injury was a groin strain that came as he was working his way through the minor leagues after time on the disabled list. He said the injury was a normal tweak that comes with getting back up to playing speed. But he also took time to talk about the lingering injury that sidelined him in the first place — an elbow problem — and it became clear that Crawford's path to full health could be bumpier than most hoped.
Crawford's elbow continues to cause him pain despite a plasma injection meant to ease the discomfort. He said he will likely need surgery to fix the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow in the offseason. The surgery — similar to the Tommy John process that pitchers go through — usually sidelines position players for a shorter time, about six to eight months. Many position players can also continue to play with the injury. Red Sox brass has denied that surgery is a definite need, and no one is fearful of Crawford returning to the field with an elbow that's not completely strong. He can still hit, after all, which is why he's been advancing in lockstep to the majors despite the elbow pain.
"I thought about it," he said of having the surgery, "but at this point, if I can play, I think they want me on the field, so I'm just trying to do everything I can to get back on the field."
He said if he couldn't help the team, he wouldn't play. But he clearly thinks he — even in his partial state — can be a help, especially at the plate.
"I think helping the team right now is best for me," Crawford said.
If Crawford can be commended for anything, it has to be for continuing to fight. Fans are clearly irritated with the time needed to come back from injury, but Crawford has done nothing but try. Even when his body fails him, he refuses to be defined by the low points of his Red Sox tenure. He's more determined to start making the high points as soon as possible.
But, considering the problems Crawford has had, one has to wonder whether he's trying too hard. Mistiming of surgery and rehab could have certainly contributed to some of his problems so far. And if he's giving up being ready for next season (he would need that surgery now or next month to be healed by spring training 2013) to put in time in a crowded Red Sox outfield this year, more misfortune could happen.
Crawford wants to help the team, but no one will blame him or the Red Sox if he waits to completely heal before coming back. Then again, if he can go out and contribute right now, with surgery unnecessary, that could be a big help, too.
Whichever path he chooses, though, Crawford should know this: If he takes care of himself, he'll have plenty of time to sway public perception and make up for any lost time.
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