Craig faces Cardinals for first time since trade

Red Sox outfielder/first baseman says he's moving on from struggles of last year

Craig faces Cardinals for first time since trade

JUPITER, Fla. -- Allen Craig, in his first visit to Roger Dean Stadium as a visiting player, answered several questions Monday morning about how his tenure in St. Louis ended last summer by referring to 2014 as a closed chapter in his career.

Two years and one day ago, the Cardinals signed Craig to a five-year extension, seemingly making a commitment to retaining Craig as a part of their long-term core. Craig went on to lead the Majors with a .454 average with runners in scoring position that season, but he was only a shell of that offensive player a year later.

At the time general manager John Mozeliak decided to trade Craig to Boston with Joe Kelly in a 2014 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal to land John Lackey, Craig was a part-time player batting .237/.291/.346. He had tallied 25 extra-base hits in 97 games.

Craig was asked on Monday if he had pinpointed why it was such a challenge to get going last year and if the Lisfranc fracture he suffered in September 2013 played a part in that.

"I felt alright," Craig said. "I battled through some things. But last year is last year. I'm moving on."

Craig conceded that the foot injury did limit his offseason work coming into the season, but he wouldn't go so far as to say that was the cause of his down year.

"That was last year," he said again. "Last year was last year. I feel great and healthy now, and I'm looking forward to having a great season this year."

Craig described himself as "in really good shape" following an injury-free offseason that allowed him to get in a full winter of work. He is trying to play his way into a role with the Red Sox this spring even though Boston already has a surplus of outfielders and a veteran first baseman.

The Red Sox aren't certain what to expect out of Craig, who hit .128/.234/.191 in 29 games for them last year. Craig tallied just two RBIs for Boston, with both coming in the same game.

The Red Sox had him batting fourth and playing left field on Monday. Craig said he didn't request to make the trip to Jupiter but was happy for the homecoming. He took pregame swings in the batting cage that he used for years with the Cardinals.

"I'm excited to be here," Craig said. "Obviously, there are a lot of memories and friends over there."

Asked if he thought he would again be the player he once was, Craig said but one word in closing the interview: "Absolutely."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.