After sitting out a significant amount of time, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford has finally returned from injury. On Monday, the outfielder rejoined the club in Atlanta and on Tuesday was activated off of the disabled list. Now that Crawford is officially on the roster, some new issues arose.
The outfield conundrum leaves for an interesting situation. The Los Angeles Dodgers have three regular starters, plus Alex Guerrero, Scott Van Slyke, and the newly reinstated Crawford. Crawford has been primarily a left fielder in his tenure with the Dodgers, leaving him with a lot of competition for one position. Manager Don Mattingly stated multiple times that upon his return, Andre Ethier had earned the starting position in left field.
Mattingly was once again asked how Crawford would see playing time now that he is healthy and Mattingly answered cautiously, via Bill Plunkett of the O.C. Register:
At this point, he’s going to mix and match in,” Mattingly said. “I don’t plan on doing anything different with ’Dre (Andre Ethier). He’s kind of earned his way this year. I was up front with Carl about it. He seemed to understand that Andre was the guy last year that got caught out and he just told me he’ll keep working and be ready to go.”
Crawford started in left field on Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves, moving Ethier to right field and giving Yasiel Puig a day off.
A positive note about this struggle for playing time is that Crawford is displaying professionalism and an understanding about what his situation is. Although the inner athlete may never concede to being benched, he is at a point in his career to comprehend what is in the best interest of the team:
I’m mentally ready to accept it. But I don’t think I’ll ever accept just being a bench player, you know? I don’t think I’ll ever accept that,” he said. “At the same time, I know what the situation is. I’m not going to make things harder on everybody just because I’m not playing. It is what it is.”
Although Crawford does understand that his playing time will see a reduction, it doesn’t mean that a sense of apathy will overcome him. During his rehab process, Crawford proclaimed that he was focused on increasing his leg strength and making sure that his timing will be proper upon his return. This approach is just what he needs because he will be put into spot starts or pinch-hit scenarios where his baseball knowledge should allow him to thrive.
The Gold Glove winner also understands that just because he isn’t the starter now, doesn’t mean his name won’t be called upon in the near future. Certain scenarios may arise where a starter may get injured or needs a few days off to recover from something and that he will be next in line:
Things change. Things happen. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played. Like I said, I’m not wishing anything bad on the guys. But you know things happen. When it is my time, I just have to be ready to play. I’ll be doing the things I need to do to be ready when Donnie does call my number.”
It is safe to say that the Dodgers’ bench will be a strong asset towards the end of the season to be able to contribute in any way possible.