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Red Sox notebook

Carl Crawford keeps open mind on his return

Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford took 15 swings at balls on a tee yesterday and said he felt fine.

Brian Blanco/Reuters

Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford took 15 swings at balls on a tee yesterday and said he felt fine.

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Carl Crawford isn’t giving up on the idea that he could be ready for Opening Day.

The Red Sox left fielder, who is recovering from surgery on his left wrist, took 15 swings at balls on a tee yesterday and said he felt fine.

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“I might surprise some people, you never know,’’ he said. “I have to make sure I don’t have any setbacks, but everything feels good right now.’’

Crawford is ahead of schedule. He has been cleared for defensive and running drills, but the hitting will be a slower process.

“Carl is going to jump out of the box, it looks like,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine. “He looks great.’’

One of the stories that lingered a bit this winter was Valentine’s inability to get Crawford on the telephone for an introductory chat. It even sounded like Crawford was ducking him.

Untrue, said Crawford. The reason was far less sinister.

“I change my number all the time,’’ Crawford said. “That’s all it was. I changed my number, and even my agents didn’t have it for a while. We eventually talked.’’

Crawford said that from what he knows of Valentine, he likes him.

“He’s a high-energy guy and I’m the same way,’’ Crawford said. “We had a good talk yesterday and he was making me laugh. I think I’m going to like playing for him.’’

Crawford disputed the notion that he might have been offended by Valentine criticizing his swing on ESPN last season.

“Trust me, I know my swing was screwed up,’’ he said. “He wasn’t saying anything I didn’t already know.’’

Hands-on approach

Daisuke Matsuzaka usually plays catch with his interpreter, Jeff Cutler, but Valentine grabbed a mitt and warmed him up before yesterday’s workout.

Matsuzaka said he was nervous, having never played catch with his manager before. But there were smiles all around and hundreds of photos taken by Japanese media.

Valentine, who speaks Japanese after managing in Japan, spoke with Matsuzaka Monday and encouraged him to use his changeup, a pitch he abandoned early in his Red Sox career because the ball was larger than the one he used in Japan.

By the time he got a feel for the pitch, midway through 2008, the Sox preferred he stick with fastballs and sliders.

“I don’t want him to be a two-pitch pitcher,’’ said Valentine. “I don’t want him to be a cutter/sinker pitcher. I don’t think that’s him.’’

Said Matsuzaka: “He spoke his side of his opinions, which I thought were very insightful. I also told him my thoughts. I think we’re on the same page and we can move forward now.’’

Matsuzaka is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is not expected back until the second half of the season. He is sporting a Justin Bieber-like mop of hair tinted a dull orange.

Out of the loop?

Vicente Padilla likes to throw a big, looping curveball on occasion. He was working on it in the bullpen, and Valentine asked him about it. “He’s got a plan and he’s a pretty veteran guy,’’ the manager said. “He says it’s going to be part of his arsenal. Possibly when men are on base, too, which is my concern. But he says he can work it in.’’ Former Sox lefty Bill Lee sometimes threw a similar pitch. He did so in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series to Tony Perez, and the Reds slugger hit a towering two-run homer in a game the Sox lost, 4-3. Somebody might want to run that by Padilla.

The thin man

Clay Buchholz, who once tried mightily to gain weight, actually trimmed down to 185 pounds this winter. That’s fine with Valentine. “He looks like a lean, mean fighting machine,’’ said Valentine . . . Dustin Pedroia was at JetBlue Park but spent his day filming commercials . . . Jacoby Ellsbury, Darnell McDonald, Nick Punto, and Cody Ross were among the position players who checked in ahead of their report day . . . The Red Sox made a few roster moves. Righthanders John Lackey and Bobby Jenks were placed on the 60-day disabled list. That allowed newly acquired Chris Carpenter and lefthander Rich Hill to be added to the 40-man roster . . . Bullpen coach Gary Tuck was back in uniform after missing a few days following hernia surgery.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.
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