Carl Crawford's season officially ended on Tuesday, when the Red Sox placed him on the disabled list in preparation for Thursday's Tommy John surgery. Crawford hit .282/.306/.479 in 31 games and 125 plate appearances, not bad for an outfielder who was in need of major elbow surgery, but now it's time to wonder just when he'll be back with a healthy elbow.
It takes less time for position players to recover from Tommy John surgery than it does pitchers, but, as Crawford is an outfielder, his recovery time might be somewhere in the middle. Infielders don't need to attempt to throw to home plate from 250-plus feet out, so they are able to come back at something close to recovered more quickly than someone like Crawford will be able to. That being said, Boston shouldn't have to wait long for him to return to games.
Following surgery, light throwing and hitting can often be initiated at approximately four months, which translates to December for Crawford. By spring training, he should be able to hit against live pitching if all is progressing well. And while a general recovery time frame of eight to nine months puts the calendar at April-May, it may take some additional time for Crawford to comfortably throw from the field to home plate.
Bell goes on to say that this doesn't mean Crawford will need to miss additional time in order to be fully prepared to throw hard from left. His bat should be fine in time for the spring, and he'll be on the same schedule as the rest of the club in terms of his offense. Defensively, though, it could take a few months even past his return to be at full strength. It's likely that Crawford will be in somewhat the same situation he was in 2012, where he will be forced to hit the cutoff man for everything, at least until his elbow heals entirely.
Teammate Mike Aviles knows how that goes, as he underwent Tommy John surgery back when he was a Kansas City Royal:
"Around 7 ½ months I was playing in spring training games, and that was kind of rare," Aviles said. "I still wasn't able to play shortstop, but I was able to play second because my throws just didn't have the extra carry that I needed.
"I felt fully healed one the season started, but you could still feel as the months went on that your arm continued to get stronger. I would say right around the year mark is when I felt completely, fully, fully back to normal."
Aviles hit .304/.335/.413 in 2010, the season following the surgery, so his offense didn't suffer despite his elbow taking time to fully heal in regards to throws. Aviles also mentions an important point: recovery time is different depending on who the surgery is performed on. Aviles was ready to work out and play again earlier than many, and even if Crawford isn't, he'll still be able to get to work on his offense as early as December, months before he's needed down in Fort Myers.
Crawford might have to take a day off here and there at the start of things, but maybe not: it all depends on how his body heals from the procedure. Either way, his bat is likely to be ready for the start of the season, and that alone might make going under the knife now rather than later worth it.