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Ortiz goes on DL

Sheath, not tendon, is injured in wrist

Ortiz to the DL

Red Sox manager Terry Francona talks about David Ortiz's injured left wrist, saying the Sox' slugger will head to the disabled list, but that surgery is very unlikely.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / June 3, 2008

BALTIMORE - The Red Sox will place designated hitter David Ortiz on the 15-day disabled list today with a partially torn sheath surrounding a tendon in his left wrist. Ortiz is expected to miss up to a month, according to a team source.

His wrist will be immobilized in a cast for two weeks, and if it is healed by then, it should take about two weeks for Ortiz to get back into playing shape.

Manager Terry Francona said it is "very unlikely" Ortiz will require surgery.

According to a source familiar with the injury, the main goal is to get Ortiz free of pain after the cast comes off, even if the tendon pops in and out of the sheath. If the sheath isn't healed fully after the cast is taken off, Ortiz could take care of the situation surgically after the season.

The sheath is actually called an extensor carpi ulnaris; the important thing for Ortiz is that the tendon itself is not damaged, just the compartment in which it's housed. This injury is not unlike the one Curt Schilling had in his ankle in 2004.

Addressing the media after last night's 6-3 loss to the Orioles, Francona was not willing to give a timetable on Ortiz's return. He said he wanted to confer with general manager Theo Epstein and hear how Ortiz's rehab will be mapped out.

"We're not going to hit-and-run and make a move," Francona said.

The red-hot Brandon Moss could be called up from Pawtucket, but Francona was talking about the possibility of playing Sean Casey, using Manny Ramírez at DH, and deploying a speedy outfield of Jacoby Ellsbury, Coco Crisp, and J.D. Drew.

Ortiz injured his wrist swinging at a pitch in the ninth inning of Saturday's win over the Orioles. He had to come out of the game with a 3-and-2 count on him.

Francona said he had spoken to Ortiz on the phone the last couple of days and that Ortiz had gone from being worried, to feeling he could still hit with it, to "let's get it checked and be sure."

Will the Sox miss a massive force like Ortiz? Of course. He and Ramírez are the top power hitters in the lineup. But the player who has proven toughest to lose from the lineup is Jason Varitek.

The Yankees will tell you that losing their catcher, Jorge Posada, for as long as they have has been a major factor in their slow start. Jose Molina might be a very good defensive catcher, but he's not an everyday player.

Posada is fluent in Yankee pitching. He knows, for instance, which buttons to push to get the most out of Andy Pettitte. Those are the little things that wind up being big things; the Sox would experience that same thing if Varitek went down.

The Sox haven't been able to create distance between themselves and the Rays, who come to Fenway tonight for an AL East showdown. The Sox have stayed around the top of the division despite the fact that they've had key players on the DL.

Mike Lowell had his two-week stint. Schilling has been out the entire year. Clay Buchholz went on the DL for a broken fingernail, so his innings have been limited. Casey had his stint with a sore hip. Josh Beckett was shut down March 25, missing the start of the season. Daisuke Matsuzaka has a rotator cuff strain, presenting another opportunity to use the 15-day DL to rest a key player who will be needed down the stretch.

The Sox' depth is evident when you consider the players who could make their way to Fenway in the coming days and weeks.

Justin Masterson will make his third "emergency" start tonight. Moss is tearing it up in Pawtucket after coming back from his appendectomy; he was named International League Player of the Week after hitting .400 with 4 homers and 9 RBIs, including three homers in one game.

With Ortiz out, Moss could be the guy who comes up and benefits with playing time. In addition, Jeff Bailey has been able to spend a few days with the big league team after his 16-homer, 48-RBI start in Pawtucket. When Lowell and then Alex Cora got hurt, Jed Lowrie also contributed big hits and a nice effort.

The Sox have already had nine players on the DL, missing a total of 167 games. They've been able to absorb those losses to a reasonable degree. Would they be in first place with a healthy lead if everyone had stayed healthy? Perhaps. But in terms of teams that can withstand personnel losses, they have shown that they are among the few that can. Even if it is Ortiz.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

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