LOS ANGELES -- Two months after being acquired as the $100 million throw-in to the blockbuster trade with Boston, Carl Crawford was introduced as the new left fielder at a Dodger Stadium press conference on Friday.
Crawford also is two months removed from Tommy John elbow reconstruction, joining Matt Kemp to give the Dodgers two of three starting outfielders coming off significant surgery, although general manager Ned Colletti said he's reasonably confident both will be ready for Opening Day, even if they are a little behind when Spring Training opens.
Crawford said he is "ahead of schedule" in rehabbing his throwing elbow and "thinks" he'll be ready for Spring Training, at least to swing a bat if not to throw a ball. He conceded that his left wrist, which underwent surgery last spring, is a greater long-term concern that "flares up from time to time and is something I have to watch the rest of my career for hitting."
The 31-year-old Crawford, a 10-year veteran, came to the Dodgers from Boston on Aug. 25 with Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto for James Loney, Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus Jr., and Allen Webster.
A four-time All-Star with Tampa Bay, Crawford chose Boston over the Angels and signed a seven-year, $142 million contract. But two seasons in Boston were so disappointing that he apologized to fans for his 2011 play and waived a no-trade clause this summer for a fresh start with the Dodgers.
"If somebody wants to trade you, to get rid of you, it's time to move on," Crawford said of accepting the trade to the Dodgers. "Things didn't go as planned in Boston. I'm happy for a new start. I just didn't play well enough there, for whatever reason. It just didn't work. I didn't do my part."
Crawford said he should have listened to Dr. James Andrews' advice to have the elbow surgery earlier in the year, instead of waiting until Aug. 24, the day before the trade.
"I tried to push through with the Boston fans," he said. "A big deal is made about the money and I wanted to play for them. Maybe I should have taken care of myself. I felt pressure from the outside to play, in that atmosphere. You have surgery and you get looked at like you're being soft or try to take the money. I wanted to prove that wasn't the case and it probably cost me time from next year. It's one of the things I definitely learned from.
"There's no secret this was a tough year in Boston. I wouldn't want any player to go through. To get out of that situation is definitely sort of a relief."
He promised to "give the people of L.A. something to watch" when he does return, and hopes his combination of speed and power will "translate well" to the National League in general and Dodger Stadium in particular.
"Once I start playing like I normally play, I won't be the forgotten guy," he said. "I definitely have a lot of baseball left in me. It's good to get a second chance."
Crawford's skill set of speed (four stolen-base titles), power and .292 career average qualifies him best to bat first or second. The Dodgers first must decide whether Luis Cruz or Dee Gordon joins Hanley Ramirez on the left side of the infield. Colletti only hinted that the decision has been made.
"We're not ruling out Dee Gordon, but we're not anointing Dee Gordon either," Colletti said, although that's exactly what management did a year ago with Gordon, who was given the shortstop job with the trade of Rafael Furcal.
Reading between the lines, it sounds that if Gordon continues his solid play in the Dominican Winter League, he'll have a chance to win the shortstop job in Spring Training, with Ramirez moving to third base.
The fallback scenario is the late-season alignment of Ramirez at shortstop and Cruz at third base. Ramirez is expected to work on shortstop defense during winter ball and third base defense with coach Tim Wallach in Arizona in January.