Carl Crawford close to playing in extended spring training games

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Carl Crawford is still expected to miss most, if not all, of April, as he works his way back from January wrist surgery, but he is progressing toward game action.

According to Alex Speier of WEEI.com, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said today that Crawford should begin playing in extended spring training games “very soon.” The exact timeline isn’t clear, but that he isn’t expected to be present for the Red Sox home opener next Friday is a clear hint that he could begin playing in games next week.

“We’re trying to get a very comprehensive, yet not rushed program for him,” said Valentine. “I heard he’s progressing really nicely. … The way it seems right now, he’s feeling very good.”

Crawford will be eased into game action as a designated hitter before getting back in the outfield. Valentine previously estimated that the high-priced outfielder would need about 50 plate appearances before coming off the disabled list, but he clarified today that there’s no set number of at-bats.

Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross should continue to get most of the playing time in the corner outfield spots until Crawford is ready.

Pirates release Francisco Cervelli

Francisco Cervelli
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The Pittsburgh Pirates just announced that they have released catcher Francisco Cervelli. No waivers, no DFA. Just his unconditional release.

Cervelli had been on a rehab assignment in the minors in his efforts to come back from a concussion. He had been sidelined since May, and there had been no timeline for his return, but he played in a minor league game as recently as Monday.

Over the summer, however, Cervelli voiced doubts about his ability to continue catching in light of the six concussions he’s weathered over the last decade. At one point he said he could not catch again but then walked it back. Whether his release was requested and whether Cervelli plans to end his big league career is not yet known.

I’m sure we’ll hear more about this soon.

UPDATE: Um, OK. Based on this I guess it’s more of a matter of the Pirates simply not wanting him anymore: