Crawford's start to season far different from 2011

Crawford's start to season far different from 2011

BOSTON -- Carl Crawford made it a point of emphasis to get off to a fast start this year and he's done exactly that since making his season debut on Monday.

The left fielder has made a seamless transition into the Red Sox lineup after missing 89 games with a left elbow injury. In three games entering Thursday's finale against the White Sox, Crawford was 5-for-10 with six runs, three steals and one RBI as the No. 2 hitter in Bobby Valentine's lineup.

It's a stark contrast to what he did in his first two games with the Red Sox in 2011 after signing a seven-year, $142 million contract. Crawford went 0-for-7 with four strikeouts as the No. 3 hitter and saw former manager Terry Francona relegate him to the bottom of the order.

That experience stuck with Crawford, and he learned the importance of producing right away in the pressure-packed atmosphere that is Boston.

"I wanted to come out and get on a good foot. Last year I started out slow. This year I understand that it's better to get out to a fast start," Crawford said. "I've got a lot of energy, I've been playing and want to be back on the field and that definitely played a part in me just wanting to play hard."

It's no secret that many Red Sox fans were disappointed with Crawford's first season in Boston. He hit a career-low .255 with 11 homers, 56 RBIs and 18 steals. Crawford also felt as if Francona did not have confidence in him.

But Crawford has Valentine's backing this year. Instead of dropping Crawford out of his preferred spot in the No. 2 hole with Dustin Pedroia's return from the disabled list on Thursday, Valentine kept Crawford there. Pedroia hit second in 61 games prior to Crawford's return while the second baseman was on the DL.

"We get along just fine," Crawford said of his relationship with Valentine.

So what does Crawford think of playing in Boston after a year to soak it all in?

"I like playing here so far when you're doing well," he said. "When you're doing well it's the best place to play. I think there's always going to be pressure here. It's something you have to get used to and just find a way to relax."

For now, Crawford looks like the dynamic outfielder the Red Sox envisioned when they signed him on Dec. 11, 2010.