ST. PETERSBURG — If there's one thing Carl Crawford has learned in his brief time in a Red Sox uniform, it is that taunts from fans on the road can be brutal.
And though Crawford was returning to Tropicana Field — the place where he spent his first nine major-league seasons and left as the best player in Rays franchise history — he still expected his reception to be icy.
When Crawford, who signed a seven-year, $142 million contract with Boston in December, stepped to the plate in his first at-bat Tuesday, most fans at the Trop greeted him with a standing ovation, but much of cheering was muted by loud boos that grew louder with each at-bat.
"It was smattering of negativity I thought out there, which was inappropriate," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But for the most part the fans did a great job."
Crawford said he blocked it out at the plate but heard the fans yelling when he went to leftfield.
"They had a lot to say, but I expected that way," Crawford said. "Pretty much they called me a traitor all night, told me my batting average, all the stuff I've heard the last two months. It probably would have been cool if we had come here in first, but there were a bunch of other away teams that already beat them to the punch.
"I've had it pretty bad on the road this year so I was already bracing myself for the worst. It wasn't that bad. It was just like any other road game pretty much."
Crawford returned a different man — obviously a richer one — but had the same smile and distinctive laugh that endeared him to Tampa Bay fans. Since leaving the Rays, he said he has learned that playing the Green Monster is tougher than the Trop catwalks. He said playing through the lean years in Tampa Bay helped him through a first month in Boston in which he hit .155. He admitted he became nostalgic walking through the halls of the Trop.
Still, he tried to make Tuesday as routine as possible, though he knew he couldn't. Crawford did little damage for his new team — take away a broken bat in a 12-pitch at-bat that ended in a strikeout in the seventh — going hitless in three at-bats in a 4-0 Rays win that ended with Crawford in the on-deck circle.
"It was nice to go ahead and get it out of the way," Crawford said. "I got a chance to see everybody. The fans who didn't like me had a chance to do what they wanted to do. I'm good with putting stuff behind me, so (today) I'm going to try to make it feel as normal as possible.
"(Tuesday), I can't lie, it didn't feel like a normal game for me."