Carl Crawford is heading into the final year of his contract and, most likely, free agency after the season.
Carl Crawford is working out harder and is in better shape than ever before, primed for a big year.
Carl Crawford allowed ESPN extensive access to document and detail his efforts, for all to see, in a special Baseball Tonight show that airs at 12:30 today.
The piece, by Buster Olney, is well done and informative, and even somewhat newsworthy as trainer Lee Fiocchi identified a flaw in Crawford's base-stealing form they feel should make him even more efficient and effective.
Specifically, it had to do with the position of Crawford's left arm as he breaks off the base and, now corrected, should allow him to get better jumps and accelerate to top speed immediately rather than after three steps.
"Just that little thing is going to help a lot toward the end of the year," Crawford told ESPN.
Crawford said Fiocchi's brutal workout regimen — speed drills (with ropes), weight work (with chains), hitting — has him feeling more mobile, "stronger, faster and leaner" than before.
"I know personally what a lot of guys do, and I know it's not this," Crawford said. "I'm not saying nothing bad about other people, but I just like to kind of take myself a little further sometimes."
Crawford is already impressed with new hitting coach Derek Shelton, who came out to see him in Houston, saying it was "like a breath of fresh air to hear him say some of the things he was saying." And Crawford said he is focused on "getting ready for the season, trying to help our team get back to playoffs and whatever we might do."
FANFEST UPDATE: Hall of Famer Robin Roberts and 20-plus other former big-leaguers (such as Darold Knowles, Milt May and Gary Peters) will be signing autographs, and country rapper Cowboy Troy performing, at Saturday's FanFest, 10-5 at Tropicana Field. Admission and parking are free; it's a $20 donation — proceeds benefiting Haitian relief efforts — for adults to get autographs from Rays players and coaches (kids 14 and younger are free).
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Team president Matt Silverman said on 620-AM last week: "If you took us out of the American League East, I think we'd be the favorite in any other division." … The Rays had legit interest in free agent Johnny Damon, just not $7 million-a-year's worth, as he has reportedly been offered by Detroit. … Expect to see those new sky blue jerseys surface officially this week. … And there are still no plans to switch from RAYS to TAMPA BAY on the road jerseys. … In another ESPN video, 3B Evan Longoria says he feels "100 percent" stronger than last year. … Pitching coach Jim Hickey — who had a 16-2, 1.66 senior season — was inducted into the University of Texas-Pan American Hall of Fame. … In retrospect, did the Rays really think Charlotte County officials would approve the naming rights deal with Mosaic? … Nonroster INF Joe Dillon will report early and work out with the catchers. … The 56 players on the spring roster match the fewest in franchise history; also 2008. … Senior adviser Don Zimmer was honored Friday at the Connecticut Sports Foundation Against Cancer's annual dinner/auction at the Mohegan Sun; Longoria was also there. … Ex-Rays C Shawn Riggans signed a minor-league deal with the Mets, who also claimed former Rays OF prospect Jason Pridie from the Twins. … Joe Maddon wrote the forward for former Angel Tim Salmon's coming autobiography. … RHPs Jeff Niemann and Dale Thayer joined the early reporters last week.