tampabay.com

A season of little progress irks birthday boy Crawford

By MARC TOPKIN
Published August 5, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - All-Star LF Carl Crawford turns 26 today, but it won't be the happiest of birthdays.

Crawford is still young - younger than Lightning star Vinny Lecavalier and Bucs QB Chris Simms - but his sixth season with the Rays has obviously aged him.

"This year hasn't went as planned, so I don't know anymore," Crawford said. "I'm just trying to wait and see what happens toward the end. Every year is a new year now.

"This year has been a setback, and I'm not used to setbacks. I'm frustrated with this season. It ain't been a good year."

Crawford gets to his birthday ranking high in career achievements by players under 26 but said he is disappointed in the team's record and his statistics.

Crawford has respectable numbers - hitting .297 with eight homers and 59 RBIs - but would need a very strong final eight weeks to extend his streak of increasing his average and home run total to six years.

He hit .305 last season with 18 homers and 77 RBIs.

"I base (my numbers) on improvement, and obviously they didn't improve this year," Crawford said. "I don't know why, but for some reason they didn't. If my numbers do end up being solid, just the fact that I didn't improve this year is going to leave the worst feeling on the inside than anything."

Being a veteran on the majors' youngest team has also worn on him. "They try to make me feel old around here, but I don't feel old," he said. "It's just over here. If I go somewhere else, I won't be old. Everyone keeps tripping me out with this 'old' stuff. It's the funniest thing."

HAMMER TIME: RHP Jason Hammel looks good to go for Tuesday's start in Detroit, reporting that his previously tight right shoulder felt great during a 40- to 50-pitch, full-speed bullpen session Saturday. "Honestly, it hasn't felt that good in months," Hammel said, giving major kudos to trainers Ron Porterfield and Paul Harker.

Manager Joe Maddon was a tad more reserved, saying things went well but the Rays would wait until this morning to see how Hammel - who was forced from Wednesday's start - recovered before making a final decision.

PITCHING IN: Maddon said the Rays are likely to stick with their roster of 13 pitchers and three extra position players. ... RHP Jay Witasick, on the DL since July 22 with a right elbow strain, is feeling better but won't be reinstated when eligible Tuesday and likely will make some rehab appearances.

BELL TOLLS: Ex-Rays pitcher Rob Bell, who joined the Orioles bullpen June 19, made his first appearance at the Trop since 2005 and said the anxiety-related problems that derailed his career are gone. "I feel awesome," said Bell, 3-2, 4.79 in 14 games. "Anything I dealt with before is gone."

MISCELLANY: The Rays' 25 outfield assists are third most in the majors. ... The eight-game losing streak to the Orioles matched the Rays' sixth-longest to a single opponent. ... A new Trop warning track, made of the same material as the regular turf but brownish, will be installed Monday. Large bats and balls are being added to the exterior walls. ... Aubrey Huff had two more hits and has a .342 average against the Rays. ... Joel Guzman hit his Durham-high 16th homer Friday.