Crawford: I hope I'm not considered the villain
UPDATE, 4:37: Crawford got a mixed reaction from the Charlotte Sports Park crowd (which was heavy on Boston fans anyway) and went 1-for-3 in the game, beating out an infield single, and making a running/diving catch. He said afterward it wasn't that big a deal playing against the Rays. Several of his former teammates said it was odd seeing him on the other side.
"Yeah, it was different, even talking to him before the game was weird,'' SS Reid Brignac said. "But he’s a great guy, a true competitor, I wish him the best of luck.''
Rays 3B Evan Longoria, who has refrained all spring from talking much about the players who left the Rays, didn't have much to say: "We’re trying to move past that. I think everybody knows that was going to be one of the questions that was going to be asked a lot. It’s more strange for me seeing Manny and Johnny in our clubhouse. Carl is an unbelievable player, and I’ll just leave it at that. I’m happy that he’s happy and he’s moved on, and we’re trying to do that as well.’’
DEVELOPING: Carl Crawford returned to Charlotte Sports Park on Thursday, visited with many of his former Rays teammates, and said he hopes he is remembered well despite signing a 7-year, $142-million deal with the rival Red Sox.
"I had a great time in Tampa, hopefully I won't be considered the villain as some people try to make me out to be,'' Crawford said. "I had a lot of fun times here, I love the fans here, and those are still my boys in the other clubhouse.''
Crawford said he agreed with manager Joe Maddon's assessment that he would naturally play even harder and want to beat the Rays, and the Rays against him. "He's right,'' Crawford said. "Naturally you're going to want to play hard; I play hard against everybody so it's not going to be any different. But it's going to be a little more fun because we know each other and everything that happened. So those games should be a little more exciting.''
More from Crawford:
On the oddness of him being with the Sox and Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon with the Red Sox:
"It's funny the way it happened. Who would have thought that would happen. I guess it's just one of those things that happened. Those guys fit in over there and hopefully I fit in over here and we just continue on our merry way.''
On life with the Red Sox:
"Right now, it's cool, I'm getting used to everything. Still trying to feel my way around and still trying to deal with the fact that I'm a Red Sox and not a Ray anymore. After time I'm pretty sure things will start to feel a little better.''
On if it will be weird to face his ex-mates:
"I'm pretty sure it will be, playing against your former team, against guys you've played with for so long, and now you're on the other team, the team that they used to hate so much. So it's going to feel a little different, but, like I said, I've just got to get used to it.''
On the Rays remaining in contention with Price and Longoria as the foundation:
"They have a nice young pitching staff of guys that can get the job done, B.J. might have a good year this year, you've got young guys with Desmond (Jennings, Reid Brignac). They're definitely going to be in it, they're going to play us hard, it's not going to be easy to beat those guys.''
On the biggest difference in playing for the Rays and the Sox:
"Look (laughing and pointing out the 30-plus media people around him). Baseball stuff is pretty much the same, baseball is the same game it's not going to change. So pretty much it's all this stuff that's just different. I say the same thing, every time, just more of this.''
On Desmond Jennings being considered the next Crawford:
"That is good. He should have that kind of pressure on him, make him want to work harder and try to get somewhere. That's good if they're thinking he can be the next me. He definitely has the ability to do it, he has the makeup to be a good player, I think he has the work ethic. ... If he just works hard at it I think he can do it.''
On making first trip to see the Rays:
"I figured it would happen at some time. It wasn't like I just wanted to get something "out of the way." I just wanted to come over here and see everybody, just kind of see the guys again.''