Carl Crawford benched Saturday

BOSTON -- The Red Sox lineup was posted Saturday and one prominent player was missing at the top.

Carl Crawford.

The left fielder, who signed a seven-year, $142 million contract with the Red Sox as a free agent last fall, has been struggling so badly that manager Terry Francona decided to sit Crawford for Saturday's game at Fenway Park against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Francona initially had planned to give Crawford a day off on Monday, but the combination of the Jays starting a left-hander Saturday (Jo-Jo Reyes) and Crawford's .137 batting average after 12 games, prompted the decision.

"He's trying too hard," Francona said. "No one doubts that he's going to be the player everyone thinks he is. He's real good. It just takes time sometimes. We know how good he's going to be."

Francona shuffled his lineup a bit more for Saturday's game, sticking Jed Lowrie at the top of the batting order.

"We know Jed will give us four or five really good at-bats. Maybe that can help us in the game," Francona said.

Lowrie is batting .471 (8-for-17).

Crawford, who heard boos during Friday night's game as his struggles continued, was ready to play Saturday. But he wasn't disputing the notion that he has been putting too much pressure on himself. And he allowed that maybe a day off at this juncture could be beneficial.

"It gives you a chance to sit back and relax, watch a game from a different angle. I have to kind of get back my focus," Crawford said Saturday before taking batting practice in the cage.

"I guess from the outside looking in I'm trying to do too much, trying too hard," he added. "I have to keep working to try to feel normal. At the plate it's hard to see the '1' [leading off his batting average on the scoreboard]. You try to get it all back in one at-bat. I have to be thinking one at-bat at a time, one pitch at a time and go from there."

Crawford, a .296 career hitter in his eight years with the Tampa Bay Rays, talked about how the team's slow start -- a major league worst 2-10 heading in Saturday's game -- made things tougher for him. He said he has been talking to teammates, hitting coach Dave Magadan and watching film to look for subtle changes in his stance and swing mechanics that have contributed to the slowest start in his career.

In the meantime, Crawford said he just has to keep working.

"I have to stay strong and focused, roll up my sleeves and go to work and hopefully things will turn around quickly," Crawford said.

Steven Krasner is a regular contributor to ESPNBoston.com.