Carl Crawford slipped his new No. 25 jersey over his head, finally having joined the Los Angeles Dodgers two months after the blockbuster trade from Boston that left him as the forgotten $100 million man.
"Feels good," he said, smiling at his introduction Friday.
Crawford had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow two days before the Aug. 25 trade that shook up clubhouses in two cities. The left fielder never suited up for the Dodgers and went home to Houston to rehab while new acquisitions Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett quickly made their presence felt.
"Adrian was definitely one of the centerpieces of that trade," Crawford said. "I'm pretty sure once I start playing I won't be the forgotten guy."
Crawford is due $102.5 million over the next five seasons. The 31-year-old hit .282 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 31 games with the Red Sox before his season-ending second surgery. He had his left wrist operated on in January.
He said he's ahead of schedule in his rehab and that he's shooting to be ready by spring training. However, Crawford cannot throw or swing a bat until January.
"Offensively, he'll be able to hit far sooner than he'll be able to throw," general manager Ned Colletti said. "The question will be how fast his arm can come back to major league (level). We have five months yet to have him heal."
In addition to Crawford, Matt Kemp is coming off of left shoulder surgery earlier this month, leaving the Dodgers with two-thirds of their outfield in rehab mode. Colletti said he's confident that both will be up to speed by the end of spring training.
Crawford is eager to make a fresh start in Los Angeles after two disappointing seasons in Boston, where he had signed a seven-year, $142 million deal. He was a four-time All-Star with Tampa Bay, where he played nine seasons.
"Things didn't work out as planned in Boston," he said. "I didn't do my part. When a player doesn't do his part usually it doesn't work out.
"I'm a competitive guy, so I hate to say I failed at something. It's good to get a second chance. I'm definitely motivated to play the best baseball I can."
Crawford said he should have listened to a doctor's advice to have elbow surgery earlier this year, instead of waiting until Aug. 23.
"Maybe I should have took care of myself when the doctor told me to," he said. "You have surgery and you get looked at as soft or somebody just trying to take money from them. It's one of those things where you live and learn."
Crawford has a .292 batting average, 118 home runs and 667 RBIs entering his 12th major league season. He led the American League in steals for four seasons in Tampa Bay.
"This kid a couple years ago was one of the most highly sought after free agents in baseball. Sometimes you need a fresh start," Colletti said. "He's still a very dynamic player. His ability to create things offensively with his speed and his ability to hit is a good combination."
Colletti said he remains focused on upgrading the bullpen and adding a starting pitcher. The Dodgers are still interviewing candidates for hitting coach, a job left vacant when Dave Hansen was fired earlier this month.
Outfielder Yasiel Puig, who signed a $42 million, seven-year contract this summer, will play winter ball in Puerto Rico, although his prospects of making the big-league roster remain unknown. He is recovering from a staph infection in the back of his right elbow.