ST. PETERSBURG -- Carl Crawford entered Thursday's contest four hits shy of 1,000 career hits.
"It snuck up on me," Crawford said. "It wasn't like I paid attention to it the whole time, it was like one day the countdown started. I couldn't believe I got there so quick."
Crawford has proven time and again he is a special player, but perhaps the most impressive thing about having the number of hits he does is the fact he doesn't feel he's even close to being the kind of hitter he thinks he can be.
"That's why it's really nice, I did that without even thinking about it," Crawford said. "I've got a lot more stuff to do. Just feels good that I got a lot more work to do and I can add on to that."
Rays manager Joe Maddon is impressed by Crawford's combination of ability and desire to get better.
"He just works at his craft so diligently every day," Maddon said. "He is such a talented hitter. I think the biggest thing I've noticed over the last two years is he's more able to use the whole field now. He probably had to make an internal decision at some point to become a better hitter and hit for a higher average and take the power as it comes. ... I think if he had decided to hit for the power, he could have, because he's very strong. I think he made the right decision."
Maddon believes Crawford will become a better hitter as his plate discipline improves.
"Probably except a few more walks, he'd hit for a higher average," Maddon said. "Something I used to discuss with Garret Anderson all the time ... when you have that many at-bats in the season it's hard to hit for the highest average you're capable of doing without taking your walks. If he learns to walk a little more and keeps doing what he's been doing, he's going to continue to increase his batting average and run production."
In reaching 1,000 hits, Crawford will become the eighth player since 1900 to reach 1,000 hits and 250 steals before his 27th birthday (Aug. 5). That list includes Ty Cobb, Cesar Cedeno, Sherry Magee, Roberto Alomar, Eddie Collins, Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson.
Of Crawford's 996 hits, 74 are triples. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, of the 712 players who have reached the 1,000-hit mark over the last 60 years (1949-2008), only two had as many triples as Crawford when they reached the milestone: Garry Templeton (76) and Lance Johnson (74).
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.