Is Carl Crawford's arm actually improved?

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. -- It's not unusual for a guy coming off Tommy John surgery to work with a pitching coach to improve his mechanics.

It's a bit less common for an outfielder to do so.

Carl Crawford has been talking to assistant pitching coach Ken Howell on improving his throwing motion this spring. Since he was a kid, Crawford has thrown with a three-quarters delivery that he now blames for the ligament injury that forced him to undergo reconstructive surgery last August.

He says he thinks if he can throw more over the top, it could keep his arm healthier and, perhaps, improve his arm strength. Throwing has always been the weakest part of Crawford's game.

"I was putting a lot of strain on that elbow and it finally caught up with me," Crawford said. "Hopefully, it's been working out. My throws feel crisp. You don't feel it as much when you throw the right way."

If Crawford's arm strength is improved, it could one day give the Dodgers the option of moving their best hitter, Matt Kemp to a corner outfield spot and using Crawford in center field. His range is superior to Kemp's, but Kemp has a strong arm that fits better in center field.

Simply that Crawford is playing the outfield again is a bit of a surprise. Earlier this spring, he missed a week because of nerve irritation in the elbow, then eased into action at designated hitter. He impressed Dodgers manager Don Mattingly by showing up at Camelback Ranch at 5:30 every morning, but Crawford said he did that when he was healthy in previous springs.

Returning so quickly isn't about proving he can play at his pre-2011 level, Crawford said. Crawford was a .296 hitter in Tampa Bay and a .260 hitter in two injury-plagued seasons after signing a $142 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. Crawford said beginning the season on the active roster just "seemed like the right thing to do."

"I'm not trying to prove anything to the public. Whatever's left in me, that's what I'm going to put out there on the field. I'm just going to go out there and try to play," Crawford said. "I don't care about who forgot about me or people saying I'm not the same. Whatever is left, that's what I'm going to give from here on out."