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 activate Starling Marte

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Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is back in the lineup after the team reinstated him from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday. Marte served the bare minimum on the DL after making a rapid recovery from the right oblique strain that sidelined him several weeks ago.

Prior to landing on the disabled list, the 29-year-old outfielder was off to a strong start. He slashed a robust .308/.366/.503 with six home runs, 10 stolen bases and an .869 OPS in 175 plate appearances with the team. This is the first time he’s dealt with an oblique issue, and the first DL stint he’s served since he suffered a bout of back tightness in 2016. While he has yet to prove he can bounce back to his pre-injury production levels, his quick recovery bodes well for a successful return to major-league play.

In a corresponding move, outfielder Jose Osuna was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. The move came as somewhat of a surprise, given that the Pirates elected to retain top prospect outfielder Austin Meadows rather than the more established Osuna. Meadows was recalled from Triple-A in the wake of Marte’s injury and has only played seven games at the major league level so far, but he’s already made a strong impression: he went 13-for-29 with three home runs, two stolen bases and five RBI since his call-up on May 18.