Notes: Crisp back to full strength

Notes: Crisp back to full strength

ST. PETERSBURG -- Coco Crisp may care less how the general public views him, but he made it known with his actions and his words on Saturday that he is back to full strength.

"I really don't care what people think," said Crisp, who went 1-for-2 with a single and a run in the Red Sox's 1-1 tie with the Devil Rays. "I just go out there and play, and if they think I [stink], oh well. Of course, I think it's great that they enjoy watching me play, and I say thank you."

Crisp, who hadn't played since March 14 because of a stiff left shoulder, entered Spring Training with just as much -- and possibly even more -- expectations as last year, when he was signed in the offseason to take over the center-field spot vacated by Johnny Damon.

Crisp's surprising attitude after a positive performance on the field may be linked to a combination of factors, including his .200 average in 30 Grapefruit League at-bats. But Crisp certainly demonstrated the type of ability he brings to the table when healthy with his quality at-bats on Saturday, when he hit a deep fly ball to center that was caught and lined a single to right field.

"He took two good swings," said manager Terry Francona. "That was good to see. He put a jolt in those balls."

Despite Crisp nonchalantly ranting about the fans, the 27-year-old center fielder proved he is ready to give it all he's got when healthy.

In Crisp's first at-bat, he worked a full count from the left side on Rays right-hander Edwin Jackson before ripping a shot to deep center.

The ball was caught on the warning track by center fielder B.J. Upton, but the hard-hit ball by Crisp was an indication that his left shoulder may be completely healed.

Crisp showed signs in the third that he is fully recovered when he walked and then slid headfirst into second to break up a double play.

He then tracked down a fly ball by Dustin Mohr in the bottom half of the inning.

In the fifth, Crisp led off the inning by lining a shot to the gap in right, before stealing second base. Three batters later, he came around to score on a double by Manny Ramirez.

Francona said that the possibility is still there for Crisp to play a few games at the Minor League camp so he could get a few extra at-bats.

"He's not a big fan of it," said Francona. "If a guy's not a big fan of something like that, well, we'll see."

The Red Sox skipper said a healthy Crisp would be a big lift for the team and said Boston never was able to see how good he can be last year because of his injuries.

Last year, Crisp was limited to 105 games after fracturing his left index finger in the fifth game of the season.

As far as Crisp's current situation, he is focused on taking care of the task at hand on a daily basis.

"I think me playing today is a good indication that I'm ready to play every day," said Crisp when asked if he'd mind starting the season in the Minors. "I just go out there and play hard when I'm healthy. Today, [Francona] told me I'm in there to play and I did, and I'll see if I'm in there tomorrow."

Timlin getting strong: Mike Timlin started throwing from 150 feet Saturday as part of his rehabilitation. The 41-year-old right-hander began playing catch on flat ground on March 16, the first action he's had since March 7 after straining his oblique muscle. Francona said that Timlin is expected to begin the regular season on the disabled list, with a possible return date on either April 7 or 8.

Connecting the dots: Despite Timlin's setback, Francona is excited about the bullpen's prospects this year. The skipper praised the recent work of his relief corps, which has surrendered just seven runs in its last 31 2/3 innings.

Francona said the relievers' performance, along with Jonathan Papelbon's recent announcement of returning to the closer role, is a sign of good things to come.

Francona said that Joel Pineiro, who has a 3.38 ERA, is "starting to look pretty good," and that J.C. Romero, who has allowed two runs (one earned) in 7 2/3 innings this spring, has been "throwing the ball real well."

"We have a chance to be pretty good," said Francona. "You put Papelbon behind them, with Timlin possibly in there, and things seem to shape up pretty well."

Francona mentioned the performance of Brendan Donnelly, who has eight strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings this spring, and Hideki Okajima (1.69 ERA) and said the cooperative effort will be a major factor to getting off to a good start.

"When you have a chance to win and can have options in the way the setup is, that's a big advantage," said Francona.

Okajima tossed two scoreless innings on Saturday, allowing one hit with two strikeouts and one walk.

"He knows how to pitch," said Francona. "He's a professional player. He can be a multiple-inning guy. He's done everything over there in Japan, from close games to situation stuff, so that's something that's good."

Minor matters: Julian Tavarez, who was recently named as the fifth starter, will pitch in a Minor League game on Monday. Tavarez, who has replaced Papelbon in the starting rotation, is then scheduled to pitch again in an exhibition game in Philadelphia on March 31 in preparation for his April 7 start at Texas.

Jon Lester will also pitch in a Minor League game on Monday.

This and that: In what Francona described as a "bullpen day," Devern Hansack started and worked three perfect innings on Saturday. The 6-foot-2 right-hander, who is battling for a bullpen spot, had three strikeouts. ... Ramirez went 1-for-2 with a RBI double, a walk and a strikeout. ... Mohr, who played last year with the Red Sox, made a sensational diving grab with the bases loaded and two outs to rob Mike Lowell of a bases-clearing hit in the third inning. ... Right-hander Kyle Snyder pitched an inning on Friday for Pawtucket against the Reds' Louisville affiliate.

Coming up: Josh Beckett, who is 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA this spring, makes his fifth start of the Grapefruit League season when the Red Sox host the Marlins on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Chris Girandola is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.