Crawford introduced, ready for second chance

LOS ANGELES – Carl Crawford held up the sparkling white Dodgers home jersey so photographers could get their shots, but after taking a look at his name and number on the back, he asked if he could try it on.
“Feels good,” he said, smiling.
After what Crawford has been through, it probably feels better than good. He’s getting a new start in LA, is putting the turmoil of 1.5 seasons in Boston behind him and hoping he’s ready for spring training after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow two months ago.
At the moment, Crawford sounds optimistic he’ll be ready to swing a bat when camp opens in February, although it may take a while before he begins throwing.
“Right now, I’m ahead of schedule,” he said. “I’m shooting for spring training. That’s definitely a goal of mine. I think I’ll be ready.”
Although he officially became a Dodger in the mega-trade with the Red Sox last August, Crawford didn’t make his first appearance at Dodger Stadium until Friday morning. He said he wanted to join his new teammates soon after the deal happened, but he still was recovering from surgery two days before the Aug. 25 trade.
Crawford, 31, was considered a throw-in in the swap that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to Los Angeles for James Loney, Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Allen Webster. But given the upheaval that was taking place in Boston, he said he knew it was time to go.
“It’s no secret; it was a tough year in Boston,” he said. “It’s one of those things that I wouldn’t want any player to go through, so for me to get out of that situation definitely was a relief so I wouldn’t have to go through the stress and stuff every day that it was putting us through.”
The season was particularly difficult for Crawford, who underwent surgery on his left wrist in January, hurt his elbow in April while rehabbing and played in just 31 games, hitting .255.
That was a poor return on a seven-year, $142 million investment the Red Sox made in him as a free agent in 2011.
“You could say a bunch of things didn’t go well, but really, I don’t want to get into that,” he said. “I just didn’t play well for some reason. Things didn’t work out for me. I didn’t do my part.”
Asked for his reaction when he learned manager Bobby Valentine had been fired by the Red Sox after the team’s disastrous 93-loss season, Crawford said, “I pretty much try to leave that stuff alone. It was a rough year for us over there. It was unfortunate that the season had to end like that.”
Even so, he said he was shocked when he heard he had been traded and even believed it was just another rumor.
“I was really shocked,” he said. “I definitely didn’t see it coming. I heard they were working on it for a while, but I didn’t believe it for a while afterward, like two or three weeks. But I’m happy I’m here now.”
Once he’s ready, Crawford will join Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the Dodgers outfield, although Kemp still is recuperating from shoulder surgery this month. General Manager Ned Colletti said team physician Neal ElAttrache expects Kemp to be ready for spring training and opening day.
“He might be a touch behind,” Colletti said, “but spring training has such length to it that you’ll be able to get him up to game speed by the time we get finished with camp.”
Crawford said he isn’t allowed to swing a bat or throw until January, and Colletti said the team has been monitoring him closely at his home in Houston. Head Trainer Sue Falsone already has been there for a visit, and Crawford was scheduled to meet with ElAttrache and Stan Conte, the team’s senior director of medical services, later on Friday.
With a healthy Crawford added to a lineup that includes Kemp, Ethier, Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, Colletti said, “I think it’s the best lineup we’ve put out here since I’ve been here and has a chance to be one of the better lineups in the league. That said, they’re going to have to do it. You’ve got to play the games.”
Crawford said he’s thankful he’s getting another chance after things went so poorly in Boston. He got the contract he wanted, but he never delivered as promised.
Even so, he insisted he has no regrets.
“I can’t regret nothing I do,” he said. “You have to take on new challenges and see what works for you, and that’s pretty much what I was doing. I think I’d do it over again if I had to.
“It was just one of those challenges I didn’t meet up to. I’m a competitive guy, so I hate to say I failed at something, but you can’t win all the time. I definitely have a lot of baseball left in me, so it’s good to get a second chance.”