Carl Crawford sprained his left ankle in the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ game against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night. The 32-year-old rolled the ankle on the turf while fielding Chris Heisey‘s double into the left-field corner. He had to be helped off the field by head athletic trainer Stan Conte and was replaced by Scott Van Slyke.
A picture of Crawford’s ankle as the injury occurred can be found here.
Update (11:15 p.m.): Crawford said he will be placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday.
“I think it’s going to take a while,” he said.
The injury is severe enough that Crawford entered the Dodgers’ clubhouse after the game in a wheelchair. He then limped into the showers and came back to his locker wearing a protective boot.
Crawford had been batting .333 (26 for 78) in May. In the process, he firmly established himself as the Dodgers’ everyday left fielder. How long the Dodgers will be without him, and who will play in his stead, remains to be seen.
An educated guess: Matt Kemp, who’s punished right-handed pitchers (.320 batting average, five home runs) and Van Slyke, who’s punished left-handers (.314, four home runs), will get the lion’s share of the time.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was asked after the game if he trusts Kemp’s defense in left field after just two days of work there in the afternoon. As is typical when Mattingly speaks of Kemp, “yes” or “no” wasn’t in the offing.
“He’s going to have to make that decision,” Mattingly said of Kemp. “I’m comfortable putting him out there as long as he feels like he’s going to be able to play. I don’t want him to get out there and feel like he’s not ready for it.”
Andre Ethier, who’s played all three outfield positions in his career, said that transitioning from center field to left is “a little tough.”
“Out of all the positions, left is the one I feel least comfortable in,” Ethier said. “It’s a different angle. You have to get used to it. You have to adjust and put your mind to it.”
Kemp did not speak to reporters after the game. He didn’t talk much before the game, either.
Mattingly said he’ll talk to Kemp about possibly playing left field prior to Wednesday’s game.
Since the Dodgers have an open spot on their 40-man roster, and a 22-year-old outfield prospect batting .348 at Triple-A Albuquerque, Joc Pederson exists as a possible call-up too. Pederson isn’t currently on the 40-man roster but Miguel Olivo left him plenty of room to grow by biting off Alex Guerrero’s ear last week.
Setting aside what we know about Pederson — we haven’t seen him in person since spring training — history might offer some guide to the Dodgers’ thinking. On June 3 of last year, a 22-year-old Yasiel Puig was batting .313/.383/.599 for Double-A Chattanooga. Less than one year later, Major League Baseball hasn’t been the same. Puig is the Dodgers’ everyday right fielder and is expected to be near the top of the All-Star vote leaders when preliminary balloting is announced Wednesday.
Pederson and Puig are not the same player. But if age and maturity were not considered deterring issues for Puig a year ago, they should not be for Pederson. Playing time might be, and it’s fair to question the value of having a 22-year-old prospect on your major-league roster if he isn’t playing regularly.
Take all these Triple-A numbers with a grain of salt — the Dodgers do — but Pederson is hitting both left-handers (.300/.388/.557) and right-handers (.376/.490/.701) fairly well. Neither Kemp nor Van Slyke can say that this season. So Pederson, who bats and throws left-handed, is suddenly both an intriguing and immediate option. Pederson has played three games this season in left, five games in right field and 41 in center.
Besides Puig, Ethier, Kemp and Van Slyke, the Dodgers have seen Chone Figgins in the outfield at times this season. But Figgins and Justin Turner have been pressed into third-base duty with Juan Uribe on the disabled list, so shifting him to the outfield — even as a fourth outfielder — seems less than desirable.
We’ll know more tomorrow.