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Gill defends team’s care for Ellsbury

He cites timeline, ‘misconceptions’

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / June 12, 2010

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Through all the tests and all the doctors, Jacoby Ellsbury is still nowhere near returning to the Red Sox in a season nearly half over.

In another attempt to shine a light through the murky waters of the center fielder’s injury situation, Sox medical director Thomas Gill spent 20 minutes yesterday on a conference call defending the team’s standard of care for Ellsbury, detailing a timeline of the injuries to clear up “misconceptions.’’

The medical team — including Gill and the Scott Boras-enlisted Dr. Lewis Yocum — found a “non-displaced rib fracture and edema in the left posterior-axillary line,’’ according to a press release from both Gill and Yocum Thursday.

Ellsbury fractured four ribs April 11 after a collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre in Kansas City. The center fielder went on the disabled list and was out six weeks before returning to the lineup. He played just three games, the second of which featured a diving catch in Philadelphia May 23. The Sox now say Ellsbury likely fractured another rib on that catch, sending him back to the disabled list.

Ellsbury has been out far longer than the Sox expected. Gill repeated the word “conservative’’ to describe how the team has handled Ellsbury’s injury.

“I don’t know what else there is to do differently,’’ Gill said when asked how the sides reached this point. “He’s got three MRIs, three CTs, he’s seen three orthopedists and a thoracic surgeon at Mass. General. So that’s probably more subspecialty care than you can imagine.

“I think he’s had every detail checked, not once but four times, and I think we’re on the right path. I think he’ll get back and be very productive for the rest of the season.’’

The biggest point Gill made was that the injury was going to be treated the same, whether it was a bone bruise or fractured ribs.

“These are quote-unquote fractures that you can’t actually see on an X-ray,’’ Gill said. “So they’re very stable injuries. They happen all the time in football and they happen all the time in hockey. We obviously have a huge wealth of knowledge and experience treating these injuries.’’

He later said, “This whole [thing], the length of the symptoms, everything is different. Everything is different in this case. I think the key thing to keep in mind is it’s really not a question of was it there or wasn’t it there or when was it there. We always treat people for the worst case scenario, so it doesn’t make any difference because we always treat them as if there is a hairline fracture there.’’

The Sox took X-rays on Ellsbury after he was injured in Kansas City, which did not reveal fractures, and proceeded on a conservative timeline.

Next came the MRI and CT scan at the request of Ellsbury. Those tests confirmed four non-displaced fractures.

Ellsbury played just three games on a minor league rehab assignment and returned to the Sox May 22.

“It was actually Jacoby that even said to us, look I feel great, I have no problems, I don’t need to spend a full week on a rehab assignment, I’m ready to come back to play,’’ Gill said.

Then came the diving catch against the Phillies. Ellsbury felt pain in a different area, behind the armpit, two days later in Tampa. The Sox had him undergo another MRI, which was deemed negative.

That was when Boras, Ellsbury’s agent, requested another opinion. Ellsbury traveled to Los Angeles to be examined by Yocum Wednesday. The result was an additional fracture, which Gill adamantly said did not come from the collision with Beltre. Gill did acknowledge it was “very rare’’ for an injury to incur on the diving catch Ellsbury made.

“That pain was completely resolved before he returned to play,’’ Gill said. “He had absolutely no symptoms anywhere.’’

It is not known when Ellsbury will return to the team. He went to Athletes’ Performance in Arizona, closer to his offseason home. It’s a strange move because the Sox don’t typically send their players away from the team when they are rehabbing from injuries.

“Sometimes getting a change of scenery can help, both mentally and physically,’’ Gill said.

Ellsbury will remain in Arizona for at least two weeks to heal and rest. When he is done with his respite, he will restart baseball activities, putting a realistic return date after the All-Star break.

“It’s been a more prolonged recovery,’’ Gill said. “I hate to put an estimate, obviously you want to do what’s best for Jacoby, both mentally and physically. So we want to make sure he’s comfortable and confident, like he was when he came back the first time. So he will really dictate a lot of this just based on his symptoms.’’

Asked if the trip to API was driven by Boras, Gill said, “We don’t have to sign off on pretty much anything if we think it’s not in the player’s best interest. I would say that we don’t typically send our players elsewhere. We think we’ve got the best situation in baseball where we are right now, from an expertise standpoint.

“I think that it was suggested by the representation. And it’s something that in this rare situation made a lot of sense to us. So it’s something that I certainly support. I know our training staff does, I know our front office does as well.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmalieBenjamin.

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