EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 29, 2007

Former mates expect big things from Crisp

On Pro Baseball , Alan Siegel

BOSTON - C.C. Sabathia and Coco Crisp spent a few minutes catching up before last night's game.

"We don't get to talk as much on the phone as we would like to," the Indians' 250-pound left-hander said. "But I try and see him when I can."

The pair of California natives, who played together in Cleveland from 2002-05, kept the conversation simple. They did not talk baseball, Sabathia said.

Reporters haven't heard much from Boston's bullet-of-a centerfielder on the subject either. But according to Sabathia, that's OK as long as the first-place Red Sox (35-15) are winning.

"I think people want to be as close to him as they can," Sabathia said. "He's a personal guy. He keeps his stuff under wraps. There's nothing wrong with that."

If Crisp continues to make catches that would be considered spectacular even in a PlayStation game - i.e. Sunday's game-saving snare of Frank Catalanotto's line drive - he will remain an important cog in the Red Sox machine.

Even Crisp's offense (.240, HR, 15 RBIs), which has drawn considerable ire since he was acquired from Cleveland in 2005, has improved recently. Before going 0 for 4 in last night's 5-3 Boston win, he had hit .300 (15 for 50) in his previous 14 games and .353 (7 for 23) in the final four games of that stretch.

While Crisp - a career .280 hitter - has regressed from 2004 (.297) and 2005 (.300), Indians manager Eric Wedge still expects big things from his former player.

"In the end," Wedge said, "You're going to get from him what you would expect. He's hard nosed, there were many a times when he was banged up for us and showed up to play."

Sabathia, for one, expects more highlight reel catches before the year is over.

"He's probably one of the fastest guys in the game," he said. "With that, and the way he sees the ball off the bat, it makes for a good outfielder."

Said Wedge: "He made some of the greatest catches I've ever seen in left field, because we had Grady (Sizemore) in center. Balls you figure are going to drop in there; he just explodes and dives (to catch). What sticks out to me in particular are the catches he makes in front of him. You figure there's no way he's going to reach it, and he does. ... I've seen a lot of great players. He's played as good a left field as anybody."

It's hard to fathom that Crisp was never a full-time center fielder before he came to Boston. Still, adjusting isn't a simple task, especially in Fenway Park's asymmetrical outfield.

"It's a tough position," Wedge said. "The more you're out there, the better you should get."

Boston manager Terry Francona has closely watched Crisp's development as a center fielder over the past few seasons. The sixth-year player has reached impressive heights, Francona said.

"I think he's playing center field with a lot of confidence," he said. "We talk about that at the plate, but he's playing defense with confidence. He's on the move. You look up and he's on the move. He's doing a great job out there. He's not just out-running balls. He's positioning himself. He's very aware. You see him move when certain hitters get to two strikes. He's done a great job."

The towering Sabathia took a different approach when describing Crisp.

"He's pretty sick," he said with a smile.

Wedge's camp on tap for the summer

The annual Eric Wedge Major League Summer Baseball Clinic will be held again this summer.

The first session is scheduled for July 16-20 at Endicott College in Beverly. The second week is scheduled for July 30-Aug. 3 at Merrimack College.

Former Red Sox Kevin Millar is scheduled to appear at the second session. Several other players, Wedge said yesterday, will make appearances. To register, visit www.strikeone.com or call 978-739-4700.

Wedge, who played for the Red Sox for three years in the early 1990s, is currently managing the Cleveland Indians.