Allen Craig

Allen Craig intent on getting back on Red Sox' radar

Rob Bradford
February 19, 2016 - 5:32 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There is a reason just about three years ago Allen Craig signed a five-year, $31 million extension with the Cardinals. He was young, and he was good. The year before the deal, at the age of 27, Craig hit .307 with 22 home runs and an .876 OPS in 119 games. The next year he made the National League All-Star team, hitting .315 with an .830 OPS. Now? Craig is a forgotten man in the Red Sox clubhouse. When roster projections and talk of the big league team come up, rarely is Craig's name mentioned. He is still making major league money ($9 million this season, $11 million next), but is in camp as a non-roster invitee, having been taken off the 40-man roster last season. "I learned along time ago that you never close the book on anything," Craig said Friday morning. "You never know what opportunity is going to come your way. Things can happen fast. I'€™ve seen it a lot before. I just try and stay positive and work hard. You never know what'€™s going to happen. I know I'€™m a good player, so if I show what I can do, which I will, you never know what'€™s going to happen. "It feels like I got in this situation pretty quick. Things happen fast and I got stuck pretty quickly, but I also know I can get out of it pretty quickly, too. When people see me playing well they will be like, '€˜There you go.'€™ Baseball is a tough game. There are ups and downs, you have to ride the waves. I had some injuries and I never really used them as an excuse, and I don'€™t use them as an excuse, but there are reasons for thing. It'€™s just part of my journey right now." He made the Opening Day roster a year ago, but spent the majority of the 2015 season at Triple-A Pawtucket after being demoted in early May. It wasn't exactly how Craig envisioned his resurgence. The first baseman/outfielder had found some health after struggling with foot issues throughout 2013 and '14, but the production still wasn't where it needed to be. He went 7-for-52 (.135) with one extra-base hit before being sent down, and then managed a .274 with a .718 OPS and four home runs in 93 games with Pawtucket "Obviously, there'€™s things that happened last year that I wish didn'€™t happen," he said Friday morning. "For me it'€™s just about playing well and showing them what I can do. There'€™s only so much I can do to control the situation. I feel like I'€™m in a spot where I can take care of what I can control. I just have to play well in spring training and see what happens. That'€™s all I can really do." What were those things? "Going to the minor leagues. That'€™s what I'€™m talking about," Craig explained. "That wasn'€™t part of the plan. Things happen. It'€™s a tough game sometimes. I'€™m just going to keep fighting and work my way out of it. "It definitely stung. It'€™s definitely a different position to be in, going to the minor leagues, having spent four to five seasons in the big leagues as an everyday player. It stung a little bit, and it was a little bit of an adjustment going down there and getting used to that again. I felt like I did a good job. I held my head high, worked hard and I felt I did pretty well down there. I had good at-bats, walked a lot, got my hits. I did OK and I feel alright about it." Craig is coming into camp in better shape and health than in some time, thanks in part to a commitment to more running. ("It meant a lot to get my legs in running shape and work on speed work and agility and stuff like that. I felt like my body responded well to that. I feel like I'€™m in a really good spot," he said.) His best shot at making the club would be to fill the spot Travis Shaw is thought to be trending toward, as a back-up first baseman/outfielder. Besides obvious need to change perception, Craig's uphill climb to the major leagues also involves his non-roster status. And with his contract, and lack of production, trading Craig would also be difficult. So, with all the roadblocks, first things first for the 31-year-old. He has to start playing like the player that signed that contract in St. Louis. "That'€™s one of those things I can'€™t control, and I don'€™t want to consume my thoughts if I'€™m going to get traded," he said. "I can still do that (production of a few years ago). Things happen fast. There are downturns in careers, and that'€™s part of the game. I don'€™t try and dwell on that. I don'€™t focus on trades, and I don'€™t want to disrespect the people around here and talk about that. It just doesn'€™t make any sense to do that. I respect this organization. It'€™s a tough game, and tough decisions are made. It'€™s not easy for me, but I'€™m going to work my way out of it."