Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Dodgers' Crawford, Howell look fondly on Rays days

LOS ANGELES — Carl Crawford is happy, relatively healthy, playing well on a winning team and, most important, having fun again.

That is nothing at all like the two previous seasons, when the leftfielder was mostly miserable with the Red Sox. It's more like his final years in Tampa Bay, a somewhat fitting evolution with his old Rays mates coming to Dodger Stadium tonight.

"I can't really put into words how I'm feeling right now, just being in a new place. Things are a lot better for me now, so I'm a little more at ease than I was the last few years," Crawford said over the phone.

"I just think it was changing the environment. The culture out there (in Boston) was a little bit different. It was something I wasn't really used to. I didn't take too well to everything out there. Here it's a little bit more relaxed. It's a lot similar to Tampa. I can go out and just focus on playing baseball, and that's one of the main things I just wanted to get back to; focus on baseball, and that's it."

Both Crawford and reliever J.P. Howell have found homes with the Dodgers, enjoying their run to the top of the National League West standings and anticipating the weekend series between two of the game's hottest teams.

As much as they are looking forward to renewing acquaintances, they also look back now with a perspective of how good they had it with the Rays, a conversation Crawford had recently with former teammate B.J. Upton, who is struggling in his first season in Atlanta.

"I tell guys all the time, there's not a place in baseball that's like that, and we definitely had to figure that out the hard way," said Crawford, 32, who left the Rays via free agency after the 2010 season and was traded out of Boston last August. "They have a lot of fun over there and that's part of why they win a lot. I just personally don't think there's any other place like that in baseball. It's pretty close here. We have a lot of fun here. But … the looseness over there, I don't think you'll find that anywhere else."

Even, Crawford said, if he didn't know it at the time.

"Stuff that you think is silly at the time, once you leave you realize that's the kind of stuff that helps teams win and bring you closer and all that kind of stuff," he said. "What may look silly to other people is actually what's good for those guys. It was a special place."

This is Howell's first season away from the Rays after leaving as a free agent, so the separation anxiety isn't as extreme. He still keeps in touch regularly with several of his former teammates and pitching coach Jim Hickey, and follows along when he can on the Internet and TV. And while Crawford has played 15 games against the Rays (hitting .224 with no RBIs), Howell has to go through that first-time awkwardness.

"It definitely will be a little weird," said Howell, 30, who spent six seasons in Tampa Bay. "I love those guys. They were really my first home, my first family. Lots of good memories, a playoff run, a World Series run. It'll definitely be weird at first, so I can't wait to get the first one out of the way so it'll become normal."

Their former teammates are excited to see them, reflecting on the impact both Crawford, a four-time All-Star outfielder during his nine years in Tampa Bay, and Howell, a high-leverage left-hander and occasional closer, had on the transformation from losing Devil Rays to winning Rays.

"I'm very happy for Carl to be doing well," manager Joe Maddon said. "Tell me who worked harder and really on a nightly basis put out a better effort than he did."

Howell, known affectionately as "Pizzle," was as valuable for his gutsy and clutch pitching as his unique clubhouse presence. "We all love Pizzle," Rays pitcher David Price said. "That dude is one of the best teammates we've all had."

For three days, anyway, they'll all be happy together.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]y.com.

Comments
For starters: Back to back starts for Duffy as Rays face Red Sox, 1:05

For starters: Back to back starts for Duffy as Rays face Red Sox, 1:05

UPDATE, 11:36: Manager Kevin Cash said the plan is to play Duffy on back to back days a couple times early in spring, believing the short bursts of activity will best help him build up after missing all of 2017. … Matt Andriese will come out of...
Updated: 3 hours ago
The truth about the Tampa Bay Raysí reset

The truth about the Tampa Bay Raysí reset

The Tampa Bay Rays are not going to be very good this year.We already knew that.They have gutted a team that won 80 games last season. Among those sent packing: Evan Longoria, Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi and team MVP Steven Souza Jr.Yeah, this thi...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays spring training info: Saturday at Red Sox, 1:05

Rays spring training info: Saturday at Red Sox, 1:05

Rays Saturday scheduleAt Red Sox1:05, JetBlue Park, 11500 Fenway South Drive, Fort MyersPitchers: Rays – RH Jake Faria, RH Matt Andriese, RH Dustin McGowan, LH Ryan Yarbrough, RF Chaz Roe, LH Jose Alvarado, RH Evan Scribner, RH Jose Mujica; Red...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE – Two things that tell you a lot about Rays cocksure top prospect Brent Honeywell given Friday's crushing news that he indeed tore a ligament in his prized right arm and is headed for Tommy John surgery that will sideline him wel...
Published: 02/23/18
Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

SARASOTA — Colby Rasmus is making a new start with the Baltimore Orioles after taking an eight-month break from baseball.Rasmus signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles this week, after abruptly leaving the Rays in midseason. The contrac...
Published: 02/23/18
Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

The Rays won the home game of their opening-day, split-squad set, beating the Pirates, 6-3.1B Brad Miller, with an opposite-field double off the wall, and CF Kevin Kiermaier, with a bloop single to shallow center, provided the early offense.2B Daniel...
Published: 02/23/18
Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

PORT CHARLOTTE — One of the key story lines in Rays camp is seeing what kind of bounce-back season they can get out of a healthy Brad Miller, coming off October core muscle repair surgery.And while Miller isn't feeling 100 percent — he st...
Published: 02/23/18
Split-squad Rays hold on for 6-3 win at Orioles

Split-squad Rays hold on for 6-3 win at Orioles

SARASOTA — A split-squad team of Rays held on for a 6-3 victory Friday against the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.Yonny Chirinos, making his debut as a Ray, tossed a pair of scoreless innings. He allowed an infield single to former Ray Tim Beckham...
Published: 02/23/18
Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

The Rays open the exhibition season with not one, but two games today.Non-roster pitcher Vidal Nuno will start against the Pirates at 1:05 p.m. in Port Charlotte. Denard Span, Matt Duffy, Kevin Kiermaier, Wilson Ramos, Mallex Smith and Adeiny Hechava...
Published: 02/23/18
Raysí Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

Raysí Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

The Rays got the worst-case news they were dreading, that top prospect RHP Brent Honeywell has a torn UCL and is headed for Tommy John  surgery.Honeywell said he plans to have the surgery as soon as possible to expedite his return sometime in th...
Published: 02/23/18