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03/07/2013 11:20 AM ET

Crawford not ready to rule out Opening Day return

Dodgers outfielder resumes hitting off a tee following his week-long shutdown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The calendar says it's now unlikely for Carl Crawford to be ready for Opening Day, but he disagrees.

"I haven't accepted that at all," Crawford said on Thursday after ending a week-long shutdown by hitting off a tee. "I don't know who is putting that stuff out there. Even with a slower approach, there's still a chance I'll be ready."

Crawford underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction last August. He was eased into a Spring Training regimen, but the addition of hitting live pitching while increasing the intensity of his throwing resulted in nerve irritation.

Crawford was shut down for a week and prescribed anti-inflammatory medication. With Opening Day just 25 days away, he's now resumed hitting off a tee.

But the "slower approach" means Crawford will need to work his way up to hitting against live pitching before he resumes throwing, as the medical department wants to be able to isolate which activity causes discomfort if it returns. And even though he's been able to continue conditioning, baserunning and fielding, Crawford still hasn't played in any Spring Training games.

Hence, time is already running out, and even Crawford chooses his words carefully.

"We don't really know what caused it," he said. "We're doing it slowly to find out where it came from. When we tried to rush, it flared up. I'm trying to be more patient so I don't have to sit out another week. As I said, I have to be patient. There's still a chance I can be out there [Opening Day]."

Manager Don Mattingly said it was fine with him if Crawford believes he'll be ready Opening Day, but that isn't Mattingly's goal.

"It has to be that he's ready," said Mattingly. "If it's April 10, it's April 10. Once we get him started, we don't want to go backwards. I've been there [rehabbing]. He's missed big parts of two seasons and struggled. Carl likes to work. We feel that's what got him in trouble. We appreciate the work ethic."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.