BOSTON — Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford was hoping to feel relaxed in his first game this season. It helped a lot to get a hit in his first at-bat.

Crawford started in left against the Chicago White Sox on Monday night in Boston’s 5-1 victory after missing the entire season with left wrist and elbow injuries.

The Red Sox activated Crawford off the 60-day disabled list before the game and the speedy outfielder went 1 for 3 with a walk. He opened an eighth-inning rally with a walk and scored on Adrian Gonalez’s tiebreaking three-run homer.

Batting second, Crawford singled up the middle in the first inning and later scored on a single by Gonzalez.

“That definitely helps,” he said of his first-inning single. “It helps you relax a little bit more and not worry about it so much, and then it kind of reminds you that you can still do it. So, that was good to get that knock out of the way.”

He feels he’s a bit more relaxed at the start of his season after a rough first year in Boston.

“That’s what I’m trying to do, focus on just playing ball and not worry about everything else and just try my best to help the team win,” he said.

Signed to a $142 million, seven-year contract before last season, the 30-year old Crawford had a disappointing 2011. He hit a career-worst .255 with 11 homers and 56 RBIs, and finished with just 18 stolen bases after swiping 47 in 2010 and 60 the year before that.

“Just happy to be back out there,” he said before the Red Sox took the field for batting practice. “I’m excited about playing. It’s been a while. I’m just happy that I can play a big league game. I’m a little nervous.”

Crawford had wrist surgery in January and was hoping to be ready for opening day, but suffered a few setbacks and didn’t begin his first rehab assignment until late June.

Crawford was especially happy to be batting near the top of the order, in a spot vacated with Dustin Pedroia on the 15-day disabled list. Last season, Crawford mostly hit in the lower-third of the order.

“I’m definitely excited about it,” he said. “No secret I like hitting at the top.”

And he figures he can run more hitting up high.

“Up there I can run as much as I want,” he said. “Last year I was limited.”

In 2011, Crawford started out batting third in the lineup but was moved down to primarily seventh after he got off to a poor start, batting just .204 with one homer and six RBIs in April. Now he feels he’s got something to prove because of his struggles.

“I’m a big part of a puzzle that’s supposed to win a championship,” he said.