Crawford enjoying himself this year

Crawford enjoying himself this year

ST. PETERSBURG -- Bad news for Rays opponents: Carl Crawford feels really good.

Crawford stole his Major League-leading 18th base against the Orioles Monday night. The Rays speedster has yet to be caught this season and he entered Tuesday afternoon's game on a streak that has seen him steal a base in seven consecutive games, which is a club record.

Crawford believes his health is the key. He battled leg injuries the past two seasons, and now he feels in perfect health.

"I just haven't felt like this in a long time and I'm excited about it and just happy to be using my body again, all that stuff," Crawford said. "It's fun again. I kind of took it for granted back in the day. Now it's fun again, I'm more competitive about it. The fire is back.

"When you're hurt it kind of takes the fun away a little bit. And going through a whole season where I couldn't be myself, it just has you in a bad mood all the time. Now I'm in a better mood."

Crawford likened having his legs healthy to driving a new car.

"You want to get a nice car and drive it as much as possible," he said.

Crawford has stolen 20 consecutive bases without being caught dating back to last season, breaking his previous club record of 19 set from July 12-Aug. 19, 2003.

In his career, he now has 320 career steals in 384 attempts for an 83.33 percent success rate, which ranks third in Major League history, ahead of Willie Wilson (minimum 300 stolen bases). Only Tim Raines (84.70) and Eric Davis (84.47) have higher percentages.

A big part of Crawford's recent success is the fact that he's drawn 11 walks in his last 13 games. He has 14 steals in those games. Included in that total are the six he stole Sunday against the Red Sox, which only three players have accomplished in the modern era of baseball and it's a feat never accomplished by legendary base stealers like Ty Cobb, Maury Wills, Lou Brock, or Rickey Henderson.

Teammate Evan Longoria pointed out that Crawford is not a conventional player in the way that he hits with his hands slightly apart to the fact that he can steal bases even if he doesn't get a big lead.

"In my opinion, he's one of the premier players in the Major Leagues," Longoria said.

Crawford is the leader of the running Rays. The team entered Tuesday's game leading the Major Leagues with 41 steals and are 41-for-47 (85.1 percent). As a club, the Rays have been successful in their 11 attempts dating back to Crawford's steal of second base in the seventh inning on Friday night.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.