Carl Crawford’s Wrist and Knees Aliments……2005-2006
For the last couple of years Ray starting left fielder Carl Crawford has been running into physical problems in the early parts of the year, and near the end of the season. Is this due to the fact that Crawford plays balls to the wall every game, or could there be some sort of truth to the point that Tropicana Field’s artificial Field Turf might be Crawford’s Achilles heel. The reason I bring this up is a St Petersburg Times piece by Marc Topkins way back on May 7, 2007, that has Crawford stating for the record, ” My legs have been bothering me a lot because of the turf,” Crawford said. “We have been on it a lot, here and in Minnesota for four days. It is too thick. We need to get a boat show or something in here to flatten it out. This turf hurts real bad. The old turf felt better. I am just sore.”
So could the Field Turf that was installed at Tropicana Field be an underlying reason for some of the physical aliments he has sustained over the past few seasons, or is playing hard baseball the true culprit. Ever since Crawford first came up for good replacing Dave McCarty, who was designated for assignment by the Rays, he has had some sort of lingering injury or twinge. But Crawford looks at injuries with a bit of the “Old School” mentality and tries his best to play through pain and stiffness to help the team. But now is the time, before the team has to consider if they want to pick up his 2010 option of $ 10 million for the season. Crawford has been a sparkplug in the Rays lineup since he came up, but his injuries have come at the weirdest time for himself and the Rays. Let’s go back to the 2004 season and work towards the upcoming 2009 reporting date.
In September 28, 2005, Crawford was benched for a sore left wrist and did mostly pinch-runner and designated hitting for the rest of the season. Crawford rested the wrist for a month, then the Rays sent him to Tampa hand specialist John Rayhack, who did an MRI and diagnosed Crawford with irritated cartilage. So the treatment was for Crawford to partake in no off season strength workouts and to rest the wrist. Then came the World Baseball Classic and Crawford was called upon to be a speed figure for Team USA, but after taking some extended swings during Batting Practice in February 2006, he experienced more left wrist pain and after consulting the medical staff, decided to pull out of the new International baseball event.
After consulting with Ron Porterfield, the Rays Head Trainer, Crawford shut down all baseball related activities for two weeks hoping it might heal in time for Spring Training. Speculation is that this is a lingering bone bruise that he suffered in September 2005, and that for some reason it did not heal correctly. It is estimated that bone bruises sometimes take as long as 4-6 months to fully heal. At the point of the pain in the WBC training camp, it had been under 4 months time, so the healing process might not have been totally completed when he began to swing the bat again.
Crawford finally got a chance to hit in 2006 when on February 24th, he went to the plate for the first time that season. After the game, Bill Chastain from Devilrays.com got a quote from Crawford on the injury. “It felt good,” he said. “I hit some balls hard.” Crawford’s wrist still isn’t perfect, but he seems to be making steady progress. “Obviously, if I move my wrist in a certain direction, I might feel a slight pain,” he said. “But the way I’m swinging the bat, there’s no pain there right now. I’ll call that a step forward.” But that was only the beginning of troubles for Crawford in 2006.
On April 20th, Crawford came out of the lineup and it was reported that he could not even swing the bat because of the shoulder discomfort. After again consulting with the Rays medical staff, he decided to gut it out and play with the injury. “I’m from the old school a little bit,” Crawford said in a St Peterburg Times interview. “A lot of guys probably think I’m crazy for playing. But I was always brought up, if nothing is broke then you can play.” The injury may hurt Crawford’s hitting, but he should still be able to run plenty.
In May, it was discovered that Crawford was still wrapping the wrists daily and also began to wear wrist sleeves to combat the fact he was letting go of the bat too early in his swings. This robbed him of his power stroke and up to that point in the season, only had 1 home run. But the wildest injury of his career was coming up for Crawford. While the team was in Baltimore for a series, he was complaining on a missed call at home plate in the 4th inning of a Thursday night game in Camden Yards when he came down wrong and injured his left knee on the landing. Video tapes show that he came down on the side of his foot near the batters box and lost grip on the loose clay and twisted on his landing. Crawford sat out the next 3 games before finally starting again in left for the Rays.
Crawford remained modestly healthy the rest of the year until the end of the season. But things on the field began to look up for him, as on September 26th he was selected by the local BBWAA chapter as the teams MVP for the 2006 season. Crawford at that point was leading the American League in triples ( 16 ) and steals ( 58 ) and looked to be finally taking step towards stardom beyond just Tampa Bay. Four days later, he was again sidelined by a sore left wrist and the Rays shut him down for the season.
With his injuries during the 2005 and 2006 season, could a pattern be developing for Crawford that lingering effects from both his wrist and his shoulder might hinder his future seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. And could it really be true that the artificial turf at Tropicana Field be so hard that it doesn’t give in to players hitting it at top speed? Athletes get hurt playing sports, they also sometimes do not have adequate time to heal because they feel a need to help the team. Could Crawford just be a quiet example of a long lost tradition in baseball of trying to play through pain, or could that long expansive green carpet be a hidden reason for his rash of injuries. Tomorrow we will look at the 2007 and 2008 seasons and see if the Trop’s turf, or playing in the most competitive division in baseball might have more effect on Crawford’s health.