Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crawford's Return By Opening Day...Not Sure If That's Realistic

Jim Bowden of SIRIUS Radio tweeted the following today after his interview with Stan Kasten: 

"Stan Kasten President of the Dodgers told us that they expect Carl Crawford to be healthy and in the opening day lineup based on reports."

Now I’m no doctor and I wasn’t much of a student when it came to the sciences that related to the human body, but what I am reading about Tommy John surgery recoveries for position players seems to indicate that expecting Crawford back by opening day would be a very quick return,  (I do remember in high school I had a biology teacher that had no cartilage in his nose, and he’d amuse his students by flattening his nose like a pancake and then popping it out again.  A memory that still haunts me 35 years later).  The point I was going to make is that Stan Kasten is telling people that they expect Carl Crawford to be starting in left field on opening day.  To that I’m wondering if the Dodgers might be pushing things a bit.

(photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Back in August when the Red Sox were contemplating when to have Crawford receive the Tommy John procedure, the Boston press corps was investigating the recovery time for him.  A number of pieces were written on the subject, with most experts claiming that recovery time for a position player would run between 6 to 9 months.  Crawford’s former teammate, shortstop Mike Aviles,  went through the process when he was a Kansas City Royal and had this to say:

“At around 7 and 1/2 months I was playing in spring training games, and that was kind of rare.  I still wasn’t able to play shortstop, but I was able to play second because my throws just didn’t have the extra carry that I needed.  I felt fully healed once the season started, but you could still feel as the months went on that your arm continued to get stronger.  I would say right aroung the year mark is when I felt completely, fully back to normal.”  (source: to Aviles Article LINKED HERE)

Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington stated on the week of Crawford’s surgery what the Boston brass speculated the recovery time would be saying “it is shorter than a pitcher, up to nine months, but players have come back sooner than that in a couple of cases.”

It sounds to me like Mr. Kasten is being extremely optimistic in Crawford’s case as he’s expecting his recovery to be a special case where the player responds extraordinarily fast.  I understand the eagerness the organization has to put all he pieces of the puzzle together soon, but I question the prudence of rushing a player back from Tommy John surgery, even if it is a position player.  Crawford’s surgery took place on August 25th, 2012.  In the case of Aviles that is cited above, the infielder wasn’t 100% until a year after surgery.  That will be almost September for Crawford.   Here are the key dates coming up and how they pertain to the Carl Crawford time table:

February 12, 2013-Spring Training Report date for pitchers, catchers and injured players -  4 months and 3 weeks after surgery.
February 24th-Spring Training Games Begin - 2 days short of 5 months after surgery

April 1st-Opening Day Against the Giants - 6 months and one week after surgery.

May 10th-The Dodgers will be 35 games into the season when Crawford reaches the 7 1/2 month date from surgery, which was when comparable player, Aviles, was able to start limited action in Spring Training games.

(photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I think you’re getting my point.  It’s not realistic to expect Crawford to be back at an effective level until late June or July.  Opening day seems to be a near impossibility.  It's important to remember that he'll need to get some game action in.  Most likely he won’t see much of that in Spring Training.  He’d probably need a lengthy minor league rehab assignment to get back into playing shape and his timing back.

The optimism is great, but let’s get real folks.  Carl Crawford should probably be returning in June and not be real effective until after the All Star break.  I hope to be wrong, but history with other players with this same injury and medical procedure says otherwise.


  1. It was because of this very concern that I asked Ned Colletti the day after the 2012 season ended if Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson were going to be in Big League camp at spring training. Ned was quite emphatic that Puig would be and said that Joc might be.

    If Yasiel has a great spring, I wouldn't be surprised to see him as the Opening Day left fielder, but being more realistic, I see Jerry Hairston Jr. or even Skip Schumaker filling in until Crawford is ready. And of course there is always Tony Gwynn Jr. who would not be my first choice because of his weak hitting.

    Can you imagine what would happen if Puig tears it up in spring training and then continues to do so in the Bigs? It would be mighty difficult to send him back down to Albuquerque in that instance. I could, however, see them doing so with Joc Pederson because he will still be 20 years old on Opening Day. Man, what a great experience that would be for young Joc, huh?

    What I DON’T want to see happen is for the Dodgers to go out and sign some has-been left fielder as a fill in, as this would impede Puig’s and Pederson’s road to the Bigs.

  2. Agree with all your statements Ron. Bottom line, there's no need to rush Crawford into the Opening Day lineup. The man needs to mend and heal completely. As you have aptly pointed, there are plenty of backup options, and fairly attractive ones at that.

  3. Evan - I think you are pretty much correct with a timeline for Carl Crawford's return. Rushing back will be accompanied by the usual setbacks.

    As I have said before, I think Crawford is the key to the big trade. Gonzalez will be a quality player but with diminished power following his decline since 2009. Beckett will be a good 4/5 with occasional gems. Punto is a glue guy.

    Crawford would be a key if healthy and playing well. I don't expect a return to his best years after a couple of injury plagued years. However, he can still be a key piece. We have enough pieces that they don't have to all be hot every game.