PORTLAND, Maine — The ball rocketed off Carl Crawford’s right knee, and the left fielder crumpled in a heap.
His rehabilitation appearance with Double A Portland nearly ended when Crawford hit a foul ball off himself in the third inning Tuesday night, and remained on the ground for some time, clutching his knee as he was visited by the Sea Dogs trainer.
But he stood up, brushed himself off, and stayed in the game.
Cue the sighs of relief.
“It’s one of those things, you’ll know tomorrow how it feels. Right now, it’s not as bad as it looks,” Crawford said. “I just hoped I hadn’t broken it. I hit it so hard at the time, so I was just hoping everything was OK.”
It was almost another setback for Crawford, who had arthroscopic surgery in January on his left wrist and then partially tore a ligament in his left elbow, which has kept him on the disabled list all season.
Following five games with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, Crawford went 1 for 2 with two walks and scored in a mostly uneventful debut with the Sea Dogs in an 11-3 Portland loss. He was 3 for 14 with five walks in the GCL.
“I felt I was able to get into a rhythm at the plate, it was so different, the balls were just so far out of the zone in Florida that you really couldn’t get anything going,” Crawford said. “I felt like today was a good start of something.”
Crawford flew to left and jogged to first without any noticable limp after the knee scare. He walked on a 3-and-1 count in the fifth after seeing mostly breaking pitches from Trenton starter Shaeffer Hall.
“I didn’t put the bat on the ball as well as I would have liked to, but I was fine with the way I took pitches,” Crawford said. “I was cool with that.”
But for all the ailments plaguing his arm, Crawford still has his speed. After walking in the first, Crawford stole third base and scored on a sacrifice fly by Bryce Brentz to deep right field.
“Just trying to get my legs back under me, get a good jump, run fast,” Crawford said of the stolen base. “I wanted to test my legs out and see if I could still move the way I normally move.”
In the seventh, he beat out a slow roller in between the mound and first, and then exited for pinch runner Peter Hissey.
“He looked great. He’s in real good shape,” manager Kevin Boles said before the game. “It looks like he’s enjoying himself being back on the field.”
The plan, Crawford said, is to travel with the Sea Dogs for their six-game road trip in New Hampshire and Trenton. The Sox hope to have him back in Boston after the All-Star break. Jacoby Ellsbury will also play for the Sea Dogs Wednesday.
“The next step might be to Pawtucket, that’s just the way it goes,” Boles said. “The people who make those decisions are a little bit higher than me. If he’s here on a daily basis, we’ll make sure he gets his work in.”
Other than his immediate plans, however, Crawford is unsure of his status.
“I’ll probably have a better idea of what I’m doing, maybe after the second day on the road,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they have a target, but I don’t know what it is just yet.
“Hopefully it’ll be sooner than later.”Alex Prewitt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@alex_prewitt.