It hardly seems possible, but Carl Crawford's second season with the Red Sox is shaping up even worse than his first.

Crawford had his sore left elbow checked yesterday by well-regarded orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, and the diagnosis was mixed. According to a statement released by the team, the left fielder isn't expected to need surgery but has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament.

Andrews concurred with the initial recommendation of conservative treatment, including a platelet rich plasma injection. Crawford will be shut down from baseball activities during the initial phase of the treatment.

The Red Sox haven't outlined a timetable for Crawford's return, although they're optimistic that he still can make a major contribution this season. Reached by text message last night, Crawford said he doesn't expect to miss three months, as had been speculated in an earlier report.

"I don't know where they got three months from," Crawford said. "I'm good. It's just one of those things you can't control. I'm still looking forward to coming back strong."

Manager Bobby Valentine wasn't certain how to interpret the diagnosis.

"Is that good news?" he said. "It is what it is. We'll just let Mother Nature take the time to heal him up and get him back. I wish he was 100 percent. Not playing for a while is going to kill him even more than it's killing me."

The elbow injury is the latest disappointment since the Red Sox signed Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract before last season.

A dynamic game-changer over nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, Crawford batted .255 with a .289 on-base percentage, 11 homers and 18 stolen bases last season. But at least he was on the field for 130 games, missing only a few weeks because of a hamstring strain.