Notes: Crawford still out of lineup

Notes: Crawford still out of lineup

ST. PETERSBURG -- Carl Crawford was feeling better on Friday, but the two-time All-Star was still hampered enough by his lower body injury that he wasn't optimistic about being able to contribute.

"I'm not able to explode like I did before, I can't do that," he said. "And if you take away my speed, I'm just another player out there."

The Rays left fielder said he was still feeling "a little friction" on the inside of his leg around his strained left groin/hamstring, but added that the treatment he was receiving had helped to loosen up the area enough that he would take pregame batting practice in the cage.

Crawford was not available to pinch-hit on Friday vs. the Red Sox, because he's not able to run full-speed.

Manager Joe Maddon, however, was a bit more optimistic.

"He's actually doing better," said Maddon. "We'll see how it looks tomorrow and even maybe by the end of tonight. There might be a potential to utilize him [offensively] at some point. ... I don't anticipate him to run like he can, but we'll see if we can get him back out there."

Crawford's not been himself since he tweaked his left hamstring on Saturday in Seattle. Though he played through the discomfort Sunday, he only managed to compound the problem by injuring his left groin as well.

Despite missing a three-game set vs. the Angels and being able to rest on Thursday's off-day, Crawford still didn't feel up to par before Friday's series opener.

"I've been testing it this whole time," said Crawford, who hasn't run since the injuries occurred and was clearly more concerned about that aspect than his being able to hit.

Maddon also said in the event Crawford can't participate in the homestand, it was unlikely he'd join the team on its final road trip of the year, next weekend in Toronto.

"I don't want to make this a chronic thing in the offseason," Maddon said.

Walking wounded: Crawford's not the only one struggling to be able to see more action this year before the team shuts down for the winter. Brendan Harris and Josh Paul each are battling their own issues.

Harris, the team's utility infielder, has a strained left shoulder that has sidelined him since Wednesday. Maddon said Harris may be available later Friday evening should the opportunity present itself, then provided further comfort by noting the same about Paul.

"J.P.'s doing much better," Maddon said. "I would not hesitate to use him. ... In a short burst, I'd feel pretty comfortable."

Evolution of a starter: With Boston ace Josh Beckett seeking his 20th win on Friday, he represents an era past -- an era with guys such as Dizzy Dean, Christy Mathewson and Denny McClain, when 30 wins was the benchmark of greatness and a wins total in the mid-to-high 20s meant domination.

After carefully reflecting on this, Maddon didn't have one definitive answer for why the trend had swung toward the 20 mark.

He had several.

"The number of pitches [in a season], and restricting guys probably puts a little crimp in it," he began, "but primarily you have to be good, and you need to have a pretty good bullpen, too. I think you'd have to look at the teams with the better bullpens to permit someone to have a 20-win year. And [the Red Sox] do."

Beckett, Maddon said, has always been a tough pitcher to face, regardless of whether the wins leader is 10 wins shy of the ever-elusive 30.

"I don't know what the benchmark is [nowadays]," Maddon said. "You'd probably have to average out the better number of wins this year from all of the pitchers and see what that number would equal. I'd probably say it's between 16 and 20. Even 15 to 20.

"If you look at a guy who's accomplished that, he's obviously one of the elites."

Here's the question: Scott Kazmir is on the cusp of winning the title of American League strikeout champion this season, something the 23-year-old would be the eighth-youngest pitcher to do. He'd also be the youngest in more than three decades to accomplish the feat. Can you name the last youngster to do so?

Fandemonium continues: The Rays have lots of things in store for fans during the final homestand of the season, and it all kicks off on Saturday. From 10:30 a.m. ET to noon, closer Al Reyes will appear at the Ross Norton Recreation and Aquatic Complex & Extreme Sports Park in Clearwater.

At Tropicana Field, the first 10,000 fans who enter for the game will receive a Rays Oktoberfest mug, as well as a Jonny Gomes poster. Pitchers James Shields, Brian Stokes and Jon Switzer, and Crawford will also sign autographs from 5:45-6:15 p.m.

And the answer is: Should he finish the season with the most punchouts in the AL, Kazmir will be the youngest since Frank Tanana earned the accolade as a 22-year-old with the Angels in 1975.

Up next: The Rays meet the Red Sox again on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Right-hander Andy Sonnanstine (6-9, 5.68 ERA) will toe the slab for Tampa Bay, while righty Daisuke Matsuzaka (14-12, 4.41) will get the ball for Boston.

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.