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.

Hunter Pence exits game with groin injury

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Rangers OF/DH Hunter Pence exited Sunday afternoon’s game against the Reds after suffering an apparent injury chasing down a ground-rule double hit by José Peraza in the fifth inning. The beat writers are suggesting it’s a groin injury, but we’ll have to wait for the Rangers to provide an update to know for sure.

Update:

Pence was 1-for-2 with a two-run home run on the afternoon before suffering the injury. He’s had a rebirth of a season, batting .294/.353/.608 with 15 home runs, 48 RBI, and 44 runs scored in 215 plate appearances.

Shin-Soo Choo and Pence were sharing both the DH spot and left field. If Pence needs to go on the injured list, Danny Santana would likely see an uptick in playing time, particularly in left field.