As Carl Crawford approaches his return from the disabled list, the Dodgers' outfield overcrowding is about to resurface as an issue.
Crawford is not promised an everyday job when he comes back. So, although the Dodgers have considered whether to activate him as soon as he can play, Crawford said he wants to go on a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
"I think I'd be a little rusty," Crawford said. "In the situation I'm in, I can't afford to come back rusty."
Crawford, on the disabled list with a sprained ankle, said Monday that he has not regained full strength and "explosiveness" in the ankle. He is eligible to be activated Thursday, although that date now appears to be too soon.
Crawford has started 35 of the Dodgers' 64 games in left field. However, as soon as he went on the disabled list May 28, the Dodgers installed Matt Kemp as the everyday left fielder.
"I don't know what I'm going to play when I get back," Crawford said. "I just don't really know what my situation is going to be."
If Kemp hits, then what might that mean for Crawford?
"I don't know," he said. "I want to take care of my part. If I was a guessing man, I would say they will go with whoever is hitting."
The Dodgers have said Andre Ethier is the everyday center fielder, but Crawford isn't so sure.
"If 'Dre is not hitting, something else is going to happen," Crawford said. "If 'Dre struggles, he is not going to play.
"They tell us one thing and something else happens. We can't go by what they say. It's been frustrating for all of us. We have to be men about the situation and accept what is going on and try to do the best for the team."
Mattingly said he appreciated the chance to use Crawford and Dee Gordon as catalysts atop the lineup but said he has not decided what role Crawford might play upon his return.
"I don't have to make that decision right now," Mattingly said.
Mattingly said the Dodgers consider Crawford a left fielder, so there appears to be little chance that Crawford and Kemp could play left and center -- or vice versa -- if Ethier slumps. But Mattingly said Crawford had the right idea about a rehabilitation assignment, so he could be sharp upon his return.
"We don't have the luxury of waiting five or six days for a guy to get comfortable," Mattingly said.
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis is expected to be activated this week from the disabled list, without a minor league rehabilitation assignment.