If healthy, Craig could play role of rover for Red Sox
Farrell would welcome using talented righty hitter in outfield, at first base and DH
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox aren't worried about the supposed "dilemma" Allen Craig would create if he makes it through camp healthy and looking like the hitter who was one of the most dependable in the National League not so long ago.
No, that is a situation they would embrace.
"Well, a 100 percent Allen Craig is a guy that's been a well-above average run producer," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "You look at the years he's put together in St. Louis, he's been outstanding. He's been a middle-of-the-order type of guy for them. We're glad he's here. This is a talented guy that's got defensive versatility. A healthy Allen Craig is nothing but a positive."
While Farrell said on Friday that Shane Victorino will be the everyday right fielder if healthy, he can't make the same kind of commitment to Craig because of all the moving parts.
But Craig could emerge into a rover among four spots in the lineup -- left field, right field, first base and designated hitter.
For a blueprint of what type of player Craig could be with an abbreviated amount of at-bats, look no further than 2011, when he missed two months with a fractured right kneecap.
Playing in 75 games and getting 219 plate appearances for the eventual World Series champion Cardinals, Craig hit .315 with 11 homers, 40 RBIs, a .362 on-base percentage and .555 slugging percentage.
"When I came up in the big leagues, I was a rookie and on the bench. I produced pretty well," said Craig. "I'm coming into camp preparing to play a lot. That's my mindset right now until I hear differently. That's kind of where I'm at."
Thanks to his versatility, Craig is an ideal insurance policy if an injury should happen to David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Hanley Ramirez or Victorino.
The position Craig plays is secondary to this fact: When he is right, he can rake.
The Red Sox never saw that side of Craig after acquiring him from the Cardinals along with Joe Kelly for John Lackey. Craig was never right in 2014, thanks to lingering problems with a left foot injury from the previous season and some ensuing mechanical flaws. Then there was the aspect of being traded for the first time, and it all added up to the type of unsettling season that he hopes to never relive again.
"But in talking to him [now], there's a completely different feel to the conversation because of the offseason he's had and the work he's put in," said Farrell.
Farrell will hold individual meetings with all position players by the middle of the week.
"We've spoken a little bit, but I think that everybody knows where things are at," said Craig. "I'm going to come in and compete for playing time and just play my game. That's all I can do. If my name is in the lineup card, I'm going to go out and play as hard as I can, be a good teammate, and do the best I can."
Craig isn't complaining about the challenge of reestablishing himself.
"I have something to prove every Spring Training, but I feel like this Spring Training is extra important for me to go out and prove myself and just get ready for a really good season, which I'm looking forward to," Craig said.
What type of player should Boston fans expect Craig to be when he's right?
"I'm a guy that's going to compete his tail off in the batter's box, have a good at-bat, and drive guys in when the team needs it," Craig said. "That's what I look forward to. That's what I've done."
And every team welcomes a player like that -- no matter what the roster alignment looks like.