Crawford told he'll back up Ethier in left field

March 6th, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford said he's been told he'll open the season backing up Andre Ethier in left field, and he understands it.

"They told me there will be a lot of at-bats for me, but 'Dre starts, and he's earned it," said Crawford, who went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs in Sunday's 5-2 win over the Giants.

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"I'll get spot starts and be ready to pinch-hit for the pitcher a lot. That's pretty much it -- just be ready to come off the bench.

Crawford, 34, has battled injuries since being acquired by the Dodgers in a blockbuster with Boston on Aug. 25, 2012, two days after he underwent Tommy John left elbow surgery.

He endured a month-long stint on the disabled list due to a left hamstring strain in 2013, missed another month with a bad ankle sprain in 2014 and was sidelined for nearly two months last season with a painful right oblique strain.

Last year's injury cost Crawford the starting job to Ethier, who had a bounce-back season, hitting .296. Crawford, meanwhile, played only 69 games, batting .265 while scoring a career-low 19 runs. A four-time All-Star, Crawford scored more than 100 runs in three seasons with Tampa Bay before injuries set in. He has missed at least one month a year in each of the last five seasons.

Dave Roberts has not officially announced that Ethier will be his regular left fielder -- "Nothing is set in stone," the manager said on Sunday -- but Crawford has been told to expect a bench role.

"I want to play, but I understand I put myself in this situation, so I knew it could happen," said Crawford. "I'm not in position to argue with them. Right now, I do what's asked of me and keep trying to improve myself and be sharp and ready to play when my number is called."

Presumably, a bench role would reduce Crawford's exposure to further injury, while providing Roberts with a potentially dynamic left-handed offensive force off the bench to go with Chase Utley.

"With me, it's always obvious if I'm healthy or not," said Crawford, who demonstrated his health while speeding to third on Sunday's triple. "My goal this year is to just stay healthy and try to dig myself out of this situation. And I'll do whatever they need me to do."

Because Crawford and Ethier are both left-handed hitters, the situation is not suited to a platoon. Scott Van Slyke, who started in left field against most left-handed pitchers last year, is still expected to see time there, although he has worked mostly at first base this spring.