PORT CHARLOTTE — Carl Crawford sat in the chair beside his corner locker Friday morning and thumbed his way through the thick manual prepared for him by the man who found a way to make the pain in Crawford’s hamstrings go away.
“As for the philosophy of what he was doing, I’m still trying to understand that,” Crawford said. “All I know is I feel better.”
Crawford decided to forgo his normal offseason routine, which called for intense workouts at the Athlete’s Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz. Instead, he remained in his native Houston over the winter and worked with Lee Fiocchi, the strength and conditioning coordinator who runs Dynamic Sports Training.
Fiocchi’s workouts were no less intense, but they targeted Crawford’s hamstrings, which gave him trouble throughout the 2008 season, and they were held on the grass fields at Houston Christian High.
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“Last year I got to the point where I couldn’t take the pain anymore,” the Rays left fielder said. “Everybody was wondering what was going on, a lot of questions being asked. I didn’t want to deal with that this year.”
Speed and power are such big parts of Crawford’s game. Having hamstrings that barked all the time robbed Crawford of his game. His batting average fell to .273, down from a career-high .315 in 2007, and his stolen bases dropped in half to 25.
“With no legs, I’m what I was last year,” Crawford said.
“Yeah. That’s a big part of my game, so I just can’t let that area go bad,” Crawford said. “I try to keep it up. Instead of it being natural, I have to maintain it.”
Former Rays slugger Cliff Floyd spent three weeks with Fiocchi before the 2008 season and recommended him to Crawford.
Fiocchi’s program identifies imbalances in an athlete’s body and works toward realigning it for maximum output.
“As great as an athlete as Carl is, he has imbalances,” Fiocchi said. And those imbalances led to the hamstring issues.
“It’s such a grind out there,” Fiocchi said of the 162-game baseball season, “it’s hard to say what causes it.”
Fiocchi said the body moves in sequences and designed exercises for Crawford that moved the way Crawford’s body should move.
“He was doing most of the stuff, all I know was I was getting strong,” Crawford said.
Fiocchi has worked with a number of elite baseball players over the years, including Ryan Howard, Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Javier Lopez, Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez.
Crawford worked out from one hour, 45 minutes to two-and-a-half hours, five mornings a week.
“He never missed one,” Fiocchi said.
Fiocchi loved Crawford’s competitive nature, which shows up in Crawford’s workouts. Crawford doesn’t just work out to keep himself in shape, he pushes himself each offseason so he can be a better player the following year.
“There’s another level that he can get on to,” Fiocchi said of Crawford’s performance. “I think we jumped on a different road of development. He obviously feels much better. Let’s see how he does this season.”
Crawford wants the explosiveness to return to his legs. Give them that and he’s confident he will give the Rays the Carl Crawford they expect.
“I just want to play like I normally play, get this team back to the World Series,” Crawford said.
“I just want to be healthy again, which I am now. We’ll see what happens when the season starts. I’m just looking to play like I normally play. That’s what I want to do. If I play like I normally play, the numbers will take care of themselves.”