Crawford’s schedule requires managing

Valentine told outfielder must sit after playing four games in row

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / July 29, 2012
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NEW YORK — The medical drama surrounding highly paid Carl Crawford continued Saturday when manager Bobby Valentine reverted to a program outlined by the Red Sox’ medical staff to rest the left fielder after four games. The manager acknowledged he defied the order when he allowed Crawford to play six straight games upon his return from the disabled list.

Valentine said at his morning press briefing Saturday at Yankee Stadium that he committed a “manager no-no” when he exercised his veto power and allowed Crawford to play his sixth consecutive game July 21 against Toronto at Fenway.

“They told me before that game that he wasn’t playing, and I kind of did the old veto power, ‘Who says he’s not playing?’ and I played him,” Valentine said. “Never to be done again.”

This latest directive fell on the day when Crawford, who has been struggling against lefthanded pitchers (4 for 20) , would have faced CC Sabathia, a lefty against whom Crawford is hitting .319 with a homer and five RBIs in 69 career at-bats.

When asked why Crawford wasn’t in the lineup, Valentine matter-of-factly said that the day off was part of the four-day program.

The situation left Crawford, who missed the first half of the season recovering from wrist surgery and then a strained elbow ligament, unhappy about being omitted from the lineup. He didn’t know anything about a four-day program until Valentine explained it to him Saturday morning.

“I’ve got today off, and you know, medical people want me to get rest, stuff like that,’’ said Crawford. “I’m not really sure what’s the program, I guess that’s the way it is. I came here ready to play, like I always do. Found out this morning I wasn’t playing. So, that’s it pretty much. Could I play? I could play today, but like I said, they’re following that method right there, and I’m just going along with how the way things are.”

Crawford, who complained to teammates about not playing, wanted to know if he wasn’t being used because they didn’t want him to face a lefty or because they wanted him to rest.

“When I’m ready for the game, I’m ready for the game,’’ he said. “I think the medical staff knows that at some point early on they wanted to get me a day off, and I got that day off. I guess, you know, they’ve talked, and said this is best for me, and they have to go with what’s best for me.”

Regarding the four-day plan, he said: “I just found out about that today. Like I said, [Valentine] texted me this morning and told me that. That’s the plan they came up with and I’m going to follow that. It’s frustrating to be out of the lineup, but at the end of the day you have to go along with the way things are.”

Crawford said he still is not 100 percent.

“The elbow is the elbow, strain, tight every day, I just play through it and try to deal with the pain that I’ve gotten used to playing with, and that’s it,” he said.

After a six-day stint, Crawford had no problem with resting.

“I was a little winded, so I finally got a day off, and I was fine after that,’’ he said. “Usually the day off helps after six games. I think we just had an offday. I was feeling good. It’s frustrating because you just want to be in the lineup, period. Like I said, I understand. He explained it to me today like he told you guys, said, ‘You’ve just got to go with it.’ You don’t always agree, but you have to go with the way things are sometimes.”

Both Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury have been given scheduled days off. But Crawford feels it’s unnecessary. He’d rather take a day off when he feels he needs it.

“That’s the only time you want a day off,” Crawford said. “It feels more like I’m hiding from somebody instead of not playing against them. It’s more embarrassing than anything. My body’s fine right now. If I play five, six games, and I need a day off, that’s the system. We’ll see how long that system holds up.”

Valentine said after the game he understood why Crawford was embarrassed.

“He always wants to play. I love that,” he said. “We’re trying to do what’s best for Carl.”

While the team has not said Crawford needs Tommy John surgery, the left fielder reiterated that Dr. James Andrews informed him he would need the surgery.

“That’s what the doctor told me,” Crawford said. “I’ll try not to even think about it. I go out and play, try not to think about it. I figure one day it’ll blow out, and when that happens, time to go. The later I wait to get it done, the more time I’m going to miss. I guess you guys can do the calculation on that and see how that works. I definitely know that at some point of my career I can’t keep playing with this ligament in my elbow like that.”

Crawford said that if the team falls out of contention and there’s nothing to play for, he thinks it would be smart to have the surgery done so that it doesn’t affect next season.

“You definitely want to take care of it as soon as possible,’’ he said. “We’ll have to wait and see. That’s why I tried to get back so quick and help the team. If I can help I still want to do that. If not, we’ll probably have to look into it.”

Crawford said he was told Tommy John surgery would require less recovery time for him than a pitcher.

“About five or six months I was told,” he said.

Crawford said he’s more than willing to keep playing.

“When I’m throwing I still throw the ball hard,’’ he said. “I’m not thinking about it. I’ve made the notion that when I run out on the field, I don’t even worry about it. Whatever happens, happens. I just play.”

Crawford is in the second season of a seven-year, $142 million deal. He had a disappointing 2011 season, batting .255.

The slide in his performance has been startling to many observers.

The Miami Marlins recently inquired about Crawford’s availability when the team was trying to move Hanley Ramirez, closer Heath Bell, and starting pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson.

Ramirez was dealt along with reliever Randy Choate to the Dodgers. And Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante were shipped to the Tigers.

Most teams have stayed away from Crawford, fearing elbow surgery, but Crawford could be ready for the start of next season, if he has the surgery right after the season ends.

The Red Sox have been trying to make a run at the second wild-card spot with a healthy Ellsbury and Crawford in the lineup, but have fallen farther back of that goal since the two returned to the lineup.

Crawford homered Friday night in his return to the No. 2 spot in the order, but it appears Valentine will switch him to No. 7 against lefthanders.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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