Friday, June 6, 2008
Terry Francona just shrugged and smiled a bit. What else could he do?
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"Just another boring night at the ballpark," he said.
On a night in which his team was involved in a brawl and Manny Ramírez and Kevin Youkilis had to be separated in the dugout, finding out that Jacoby Ellsbury is better than anticipated had to make the manager feel somewhat better.
The loss of Ellsbury, coupled with the loss of David Ortiz - that's top speed and top power - could have and would have been devastating to the Red Sox. But there's hope Ellsbury's right wrist injury might be day to day.
"Just talked to [team physician] Tom Gill," said Francona after the Red Sox defeated the Rays, 7-1. "You saw the play and probably saw it more than I did on replay. He will be examined in the morning. I think that they think that he's nothing more than day to day, which is great news. When we got out there to see him, it hurt. Saw how it looked. But I think we're very hopeful that's all it is [a strain]. He's pretty sore. And we'll go from there.
"Tom said, 'I don't know if he's going to be able to play [tonight].' I was glad to hear him just say that, if that's how he's thinking. That's good news."
The Sox were concerned enough to make a roster move after the game - rookie Chris Carter was sent to Pawtucket and the more defensively gifted Brandon Moss was called up. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is not of a mind to take chances on Kenny Lofton or Barry Bonds; he'd rather fill needs through the farm system.
Ellsbury made a tremendous diving catch in right-center in the fourth inning to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases, but he rolled over on his right wrist.
You could see his wrist bend and hit the grass with force. Before Ellsbury sat up, he removed his glove and writhed in pain, trying to flex his wrist. Trainer Paul Lessard attended to Ellsbury, who strolled off the field, the scene appearing ominous. Ellsbury, one of the most exciting young players in Red Sox history, moved from left field to center when Coco Crisp was ejected for his role in the brawl.
The Sox had to move J.D. Drew from right to center, and Kevin Youkilis, given the night off at first in favor of Sean Casey, entered to play right. Chris Carter, in his major league debut, went to left.
Ellsbury was diagnosed with a strained right wrist, and X-rays were negative. If that sounds familiar, it should. It's precisely what Ortiz was diagnosed with before an MRI showed a partial tear of the tendon sheath in his left wrist. The Red Sox will wait until this morning to see how Ellsbury's wrist feels. If it's sore and swollen, he'll probably have an MRI. If he says it feels better, then the Red Sox can breathe a major sigh of relief.
Ellsbury's role is extremely important now, when power is missing. The Sox must utilize their speed and manufacture runs.
Ellsbury has 28 stolen bases and has been caught three times. You could argue that two of the times he was caught, the umpire made the wrong call.
He's stolen bases on pitchouts and he's stolen third four times. It would be tough to lose the speed-power combo of Ellsbury and Ortiz and not see a downturn in runs. Beyond that, Ramírez appeared to tweak his hamstring while batting in the seventh. He walked, and after Mike Lowell flied to right, Ramírez was replaced by pinch runner Kevin Cash. And don't forget Crisp could receive a suspension for attacking pitcher James Shields in the brawl.
All of which makes Ellsbury's health more of a concern.
Ellsbury makes the offense tick. His presence on the bases creates RBI opportunities.
While the Red Sox have speed in Crisp and Julio Lugo, Ellsbury is more of a catalyst. He has become the true leadoff hitter in a lineup that has been void of one for some time.
If Ellsbury is out for an extended period, it will likely create an opportunity for Moss, who was bypassed this time for Carter, a DH who played well in left last night and had two hits in his major league debut.
With all the injuries, Epstein eventually might have to go outside the organization to fill the vacancies.
As for Ellsbury's defense? He might be the best outfielder in the American League. Why?
As a few scouts have mentioned, they don't believe there is a player as good at all three outfield positions. That's playing the angles at the corners, having the arm strength to make good cutoff throws and throws to the plate, and having the speed to cover every center field in the American League.
With Ortiz out and Ramírez DHing most of the time, the Ellsbury-Crisp-Drew outfield covers a lot of ground. Yes, the Sox won last night's game, but they lost big time.
Infighting, injuries, possible suspensions.
Fenway has seen better nights.