Carl Crawford aims to play in extended spring training games next week

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The Red Sox might be without Jacoby Ellsbury for at least the next six weeks due to a separated right shoulder, but at least there’s some encouraging news about Carl Crawford to pass along.

According to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, Crawford took batting practice on the field before yesterday’s home opener against the Rays. He returned to Boston this week to have his sore left elbow checked out, but the condition is not serious and he’s expected to return to Florida this weekend to resume his rehab from January wrist surgery.

While he’ll be eased into action as a designated hitter, Crawford told Abraham that he hopes to begin playing in extended spring training games next week.

“This was the week I was scheduled to play games,’’ he said. “It’s just a little setback. It’s just a strain and we’re going to have to work on it a little bit. I’m guessing I’ll be playing some games next week, hopefully.

It was frustrating because I was looking forward to playing those games. It got pushed back a week, so I’ll just have to wait a little longer and be patient.’’

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine previously estimated that Crawford would likely need at least 50 at-bats between extended spring training and a rehab assignment before coming off the disabled list, so it’s unlikely we’ll see him until May.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.