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Carl Crawford rejoins Red Sox

BALTIMORE -- Unlike his Boston Red Sox teammates, Carl Crawford did not straggle into the team's hotel in Baltimore shortly after 6 a.m. ET on Monday morning. He'd arrived the day before.

But Crawford, who returned to the starting lineup Monday night, said he stayed up and watched until the end of Boston's 1-0, 16-inning win over the Tampa Bay Rays, which ended just before 2 a.m. Not that he would dare to suggest he was tired in present company.

The Red Sox left fielder came off the disabled list exactly a month after going on it with what was described at the time as a mild strain of his left hamstring, missing 24 games. He went 2-for-5 with two groundball singles, an RBI and two runs scored in a 15-10 win over the Orioles. He ran fine and showed no ill effects from the injury.

The Red Sox went 15-9 in his absence, losing a game off what had been a 2½ game lead in the AL East. In the 14 games in June in which Crawford was in the lineup, the team had erupted offensively, averaging 7.4 runs a game and posting a .300/.375/.513 batting line, with 20 home runs in that span. At the time, Crawford's contributions were modest -- he hit .278/.298/.463 in that span.

In Crawford's absence, the team averaged 5.5 runs a game over 24 games, posting a .276/.361/.471 batting line. The biggest impact his absence had was on the career prospects of young outfielder Josh Reddick -- who seized the chance to play after being called up when Crawford went on the DL and has performed at a high level, posting a .345/.403/.672 line -- and veteran outfielder Mike Cameron, who was traded to the Florida Marlins after being designated for assignment by the Red Sox. Cameron is batting just .150 (3-for-20) in seven games with Florida.

Crawford played two games on a rehab assignment in Triple-A Pawtucket, going 1-for-5 in a span of 10 innings.

"I wanted to see if I could move all around," Crawford said. "I feel real good, comfortable."

Crawford acknowledged that it may take a little time to get his timing back at the plate, but otherwise pronounced himself fully healthy. Asked if he looked at this as a chance to restart a season that has been a struggle (.243 batting average, .275 on-base percentage), he said: "I want to put the first half behind me. The team is still doing well. I want to blend right in. I was starting to feel better (at the time he was hurt)."

Even with David Ortiz out of the lineup for the next three nights while he serves a three-game suspension (reduced from four games), Crawford returned to the No. 6 spot in the order he was occupying before he was hurt. Reddick leapfrogged him into the No. 5 hole normally occupied by Ortiz.

To make room for Crawford on 25-man roster, Boston optioned infielder Drew Sutton to Pawtucket. Manager Terry Francona said that was the logical move, because utility man Yamaico Navarro can play both the infield and the outfield.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.