02/18/09 5:31 PM EST
Times they are a-changin' for Crawford
Rays veteran has high spirits following World Series run in '08
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Nothing Crawford had experienced in Spring Trainings past could compare with what he felt on the first day.
"It feels different," Crawford said. "I'm used to coming in when expectations were that we'd lose 100 games. ... I'd rather come in after the season we had last year. I like this feeling better, that's for sure."
Until Crawford experienced Tampa Bay's winning ways of 2008, all the talented Rays left fielder had experienced was losing -- so much losing, in fact, that his spirit had almost reached a point of disrepair.
"Yeah, I was right there at the line, so I was glad that we turned it around, because I think we all needed it," Crawford said. "... I definitely think [the winning] came at the right time, because there was a lot of losing going on. It was starting to have an effect on me. It just seemed like that winning season came at the right time."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said after players experience too much losing, they often experience a saturation point where they just can't take losing any more.
"I can understand that," Maddon said. "It's easy for us to say that now. He probably could have endured longer, because he's a great athlete and whatever. [But] being able to take all of his talents and putting it under the bright lights on a big stage right now, I'm sure that makes him feel a whole lot better about it."
Crawford has always put in the necessary work in the offseason to perform at a high level once the season started. This past offseason, the winning gave him a lift to his workouts.
"[It helps] just knowing you want to be on top of your game, because you're going to have a good team," Crawford said. "[We] have a chance to go back to the playoffs -- it definitely made me want to work harder this offseason."
Crawford looks ready to suit up and play tailback in the NFL. He's a solid 225 pounds and all of his recent injuries are behind him.
"Wrist's feeling good," Crawford said. "Everything is feeling healthy, so I'm excited about this season."
Crawford worked out in Houston during the offseason rather than in Phoenix, where he has in the past, primarily because he wanted to work out on natural turf. Among his goals was to strengthen his hamstrings so he would not have any problems playing on Tropicana Field's artificial surface. And the American League should take note that Crawford declared: "[I] feel fast again."
Maddon liked what he saw of Crawford at Wednesday's workout.
"Carl, he was in real good shape," Maddon said. "He looked sharp. Batting practice was sharp. You just talk to him, he's really excited. He's amped up about this whole thing. He looked good. He looked real good."
Crawford said "it's like night and day" when asked how he felt compared to last year.
"Just see how my body holds up," Crawford said. "Right now, I feel good. I feel better than I've felt for a long time."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.