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Out: Crisp has broken knuckle; no timetable given for return

The two-paragraph release issued by Red Sox physician Thomas Gill yesterday, and the equally brief comments general manager Theo Epstein made, indicated only that Coco Crisp has a nondisplaced fracture at the base of his left index finger (a.k.a. a broken knuckle) and will be in a splint for 10 days before he is reevaluated.

Crisp sustained no ligament damage, according to Epstein, and at this time doesn't need surgery, Gill said.

Dr. Frank McCue, a hand specialist and professor emeritus at the University of Virginia who was consulted before Nomar Garciaparra's wrist surgery, said Crisp's injury, as described by the Red Sox, is likely to keep him out of the lineup until the end of April or the beginning of May.

''With a nondisplaced fracture, it should heal fairly quickly," said McCue, who did not examine Crisp. ''Ten days might be too soon, but in three weeks it should heal.

''You protect it. It's sore to a varying degree. It shouldn't cause any long-term problems."

McCue said the area of the finger that Crisp hurt is the proximal joint, which controls the finger's side-to-side movement. A nondisplaced fracture, McCue said, indicates that the joint surface is smooth, not broken. The concern with these types of injuries, he said, is that there may be ligament damage, in which case surgery might be needed. But Epstein said no ligament was damaged.

Crisp's injury appears to be less devastating than similar injuries incurred by other players in recent seasons. In March 2004, Baltimore's Jerry Hairston suffered a fractured dislocation of the knuckle on his right ring finger sliding into third base (as Crisp was doing) and missed more than two months. Last April, San Diego's Khalil Greene broken his ring finger just above the knuckle and missed more than three weeks. Luis Rivas of the Devil Rays sustained a broken knuckle in mid March that necessitated surgery, and he has been labeled out for eight weeks. In hockey, Keith Tkachuk of the Blues was hit in the hand by a puck in December, broke a knuckle, and missed nearly two months.

''We're not going to speculate on any timetables," said Epstein, adhering to the club's new policies, inspired by Bill Belichick.

Crisp is expected to be spelled in center field by a combination of Adam Stern (who started Sunday, hit leadoff, and went 2 for 5 with 2 RBIs), Wily Mo Peña, and former White Sox utilityman Willie Harris, who Epstein hinted would be called up today from Pawtucket.

Sox manager Terry Francona, reached by email, would not confirm today's lineup because he had yet to speak to his players, given yesterday's off day. But he did say that Stern and Kevin Youkilis both would have a chance to hit leadoff in Crisp's absence. It's not inconceivable that Trot Nixon leads off in the home opener, given his success against Toronto's Josh Towers (9 for 18, 2 HRs, 2 RBIs).

''We have a lot of confidence in Adam Stern and Wily Mo Peña and the player we're going to bring in, the corresponding roster move," Epstein said. ''No one person can replace Coco's exact skill set, but we think that through mixing and matching we can find a way to stay afloat and prosper."

Crisp, in five games with the Sox, had collected eight hits (8 for 24), scored six runs, and stolen two bases in three attempts. It was the third attempt that cost him. Attempting to take third Saturday at Baltimore, Crisp was snuffed out by pitcher Bruce Chen, who paused before throwing to third. Crisp was cut down, and broke the knuckle in the process.

''Man, that guy, he brings so much already to this ball club," David Ortiz said. ''We're going to miss him a lot. He's been doing a hell of a job.

''Sometimes there's players you don't get to know about and watch day by day, and he is one of those guys. When you get to play with him, watch him day by day, you know you have a superstar right behind you. So hopefully he comes back soon."

Gordon Edes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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