PAWTUCKET, R.I. ?? This is tricky territory for Carl Crawford.
On one hand, during Thursday's rehab assignment with the PawSox, the outfielder said he wasn't concerned about all the animosity. This time around, he planned to ignore the lingering criticism surrounding his seven-year, $142 million contract.
"I feel like the expectations are always high," Crawford said. "My thing is to play within myself and not worry about all that. This year I'm trying to block all that [booing and distractions] out."
But in the next breath, he contradicted himself. When asked why he was rushing his rehabilitation — despite the possibility he could blow out his left elbow — Crawford pointed to the pressure from the fans and management as his motivation.
It sets a hazardous precedent for Crawford. Over the past two weeks, the 30-year-old has emphasized that he'll likely need Tommy John surgery, an injury that typically sidelines players for six-to-eight months.
Judging by the comments, the mental battles are still gnawing at Crawford. Last year, the chatter affected him at the plate, causing him to alter his stance. This year, it's seemingly prompting him to rush his rehab.
"It's definitely frustrating for me because you know I want to be out there and I'm not a guy that likes to make a lot of excuses, so I want to be out there," Crawford said. "But at the same time, I have to be careful. There's a fine line between trying to explain why you're not out there and why you're still on the sidelines."
Now, Crawford won't be the first major league athlete to play with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament. It's been successfully done before, considering the injury doesn't affect players at the plate.
When Albert Pujols starred for the Cardinals, he battled through a similar injury in 2003. But skipper Tony La Russa instructed Pujols ?? who played outfield at the time ?? to toss the ball lightly to the infield. At all costs.
If Crawford adheres to that strategy, he'll likely finish the season. But shortly after leaving Thursday's 8-5 loss to Buffalo, Crawford revealed that he plans to ramp up his throws upon returning to the majors.
"When I'm throwing, I just said 'Whenever [the elbow blows], it happens," Crawford said. "But I'm not going to hold back once I get on the field. When I take that field, I'm going to go all out."
It's a troubling comment. Very troubling.
By uttering those words, Crawford indirectly insinuated that his elbow couldn't and wouldn't last through the season. And his desire to unleash throws at full strength only increases the risk of further damage.
The Red Sox have taken measures to prevent that, altering Crawford's throwing mechanics. Instead of tossing like an outfielder, Crawford said he'd be slinging balls more like a pitcher.
"It's a little concern," Crawford said. "But like I said, once I cross those white lines and get on the field, I'm not going to worry about it."
Either way, it's tricky territory for him and the Red Sox. Despite his desire to prove the naysayers wrong, Crawford could wind up offering them more ammunition if another setback occurs.
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