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No quit in Craig: 'I know I can hit'

Finding a spot with Red Sox will be tough, but first baseman/outfielder confident in abilities
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Allen Craig isn't even close to giving up, despite the steep decline he experienced the last three years and the roster crunch he finds himself in with the Red Sox.

There were results behind Craig's steely resolve on Wednesday afternoon, as he smoked a ground-rule double and a two-run homer in an 8-7 loss to the Mets. The home run was against an established reliever in lefty Jerry Blevins.

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Allen Craig isn't even close to giving up, despite the steep decline he experienced the last three years and the roster crunch he finds himself in with the Red Sox.

There were results behind Craig's steely resolve on Wednesday afternoon, as he smoked a ground-rule double and a two-run homer in an 8-7 loss to the Mets. The home run was against an established reliever in lefty Jerry Blevins.

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"I know I can hit," said Craig. "It just comes down to being healthy and getting at-bats, and that's kind of my focus right now."

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For the second straight Spring Training, Craig is a non-roster invitee for the Red Sox, a difficult descent for a man who was once a top run producer for a Cardinals squad that won the World Series in 2011 and the National League pennant in '13.

But as long as the 32-year-old Craig has a bat in his hands, he thinks he can hit his way back to the Major Leagues.

"Yeah, I think so," said Craig, who is hitting .294 in Spring Training. "Why not? I'm out here playing and hitting the ball hard -- as hard as I've ever hit it. I know it's easy to write people off and stuff like that. I learned a long time ago you can never discount people if they're in the game and playing and working hard. That's kind of where I'm at right now."

Given the options the Red Sox have at the positions Craig can play -- first base, corner outfield and designated hitter -- it's hard to see an opportunity for him in Boston barring injuries to others. Craig will earn $11 million this season. The Red Sox hold a $13 million option for 2018 that includes a $1 million buyout.

Most likely, Craig will start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket unless the Red Sox can find a trade partner. That quest would be easier for president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski if Craig continues to mash like he did Wednesday.

Video: BOS@NYM: Craig hits a ground-rule double to left

"I see more life in Allen Craig's body," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "I see better bat speed. There's crispness. There's power. A couple of really good swings again today. The ability to impact the baseball has been a little bit more consistent. There's been more hard contact."

Hard contact used to be a way of life for Craig. And he thinks it will be again. The key will be staying healthy.

Playing for Pawtucket last season, Craig suffered a left oblique strain and then had inflammation in his right knee. He appeared in only 29 games, and for the first time since 2009, none of them were in the Major Leagues.

"I think I had a pretty good spring last year," said Craig. "I just kind of ran into a tough injury in the middle of the year last year and I honestly didn't even get to play much. I played like 20 games or something, so it was kind of a lost year in that regard. It was tough."

How does Craig avoid getting discouraged?

"I try to maintain the perspective that baseball has been pretty good to me over the years," Craig said. "I've had a lot of good times playing the game --- more good times than bad times. I know things can change quickly."

Craig's downward spiral started with the lisfranc injury in his left foot late in the 2013 season. From there, mechanical issues developed. But he thinks he is over all that now.

"Injuries happen to people," Craig said. "People come back from injuries all the time. It's part of the game. I just keep working and a lot of stuff is out of my hands. I feel great. I feel confident up there. I'm just trying to have fun."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Allen Craig