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Ground to cover in outfield

No easy solutions to rash of injuries

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / May 22, 2012
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BALTIMORE - You’re not supposed to cry over injuries.

But cry, Boston, cry.

Once Cody Ross officially goes on the disabled list Tuesday with a fractured left foot, there will be six Red Sox outfielders on the shelf. There seems no end in sight to this rash of injuries.

Sox players have spent 438 games on the disabled list, the most in baseball.

Carl Crawford (wrist, elbow), Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder), Darnell McDonald (oblique), Jason Repko (shoulder), Ryan Kalish (shoulder), and Ross are all hurt.

Added to that is Ryan Sweeney, who hasn’t played since suffering a concussion on a great catch Saturday.

It’s getting harder and harder to replace them.

“It’s a situation where we don’t have much of a choice,’’ said David Ortiz after the Red Sox’ 8-6 victory Monday night. “I heard about Cody before the game and, man, so many things we have to get through. These are things you have to deal with. And we’re gonna deal with them.’’

Che-Hseun Lin, fresh from Pawtucket, started in right field Monday. Veteran Scott Podsednik, who was purchased from the Phillies May 12, is with the PawSox with a June out clause. There are also career minor leaguers Josh Kroeger (Pawtucket) and Juan Carlos Linares (Portland).

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine could move Mike Aviles to the outfield and recall Pawtucket shortstop Jose Iglesias, who is hitting .280.

He could let Adrian Gonzalez play more in right field when Kevin Youkilis gets back Tuesday, moving Youkilis to first base, and leave Will Middlebrooks at third base. This seems the best way to keep all of the important bats in the lineup. Before Ross was hurt Friday when he fouled a ball off his foot, Middlebrooks was, according to team sources, heading back to Pawtucket. The rookie went 3 for 5 in Monday’s win to raise his average to .297.

That thinking may have changed with the Ross injury, but if he does go back it will make absolutely no sense.

“It’s something we’ve talked about. We lost a good righthanded hitter today, so it’s hard to lose another righthanded hitter,’’ Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. “We’re still talking about how it would work. We need to slow things down and try to make the right decisions, not only for the team, but for the player.

“We’ve talked about what it would look like if we did it. It’s a time when we have a lot of injuries. Sometimes you do things you wouldn’t have thought about doing a couple of months ago.’’

How could Valentine not have the option of writing the name of one of his best hitters in the lineup?

Cherington was leaving it up to Valentine as to whether Gonzalez could play more right field after playing two flawless games there in Philadelphia.

“I think Bobby has a good feel for what Adrian can do,’’ Cherington said. “Adrian’s comfortable out there. He sees the ball off the bat well. Bobby’s got a good feel for how much he can do that and be safe.

“Fenway is a bit more of a challenge. Some of the ballparks we play in on the road, maybe that becomes an option. It’s not something we want to do long term. In short terms perhaps, every once in a while.’’

Cherington hasn’t ruled out trades, and, in fact, has been working on deals since he acquired Marlon Byrd from the Cubs April 21.

The Cubs would love to unload Alfonso Soriano, but it doesn’t appear Cherington would bite on that one.

“We’ve looked at different things, internally and externally. We’re looking for ways to upgrade,’’ he said. “We’ve been banged up before this, so we’ve had discussions. It seems like in most cases a lot of teams have injuries of their own. We’ll keep working at it.’’

Cherington estimated July returns for Crawford and Ellsbury, and the same for Kalish, who might be back the soonest of the three. McDonald likely will come back in the next 10 days.

The Sox don’t have that long to wait. They need to do something now.

But other teams have issues, too. The Orioles have seven players on the disabled list.

The Rays have lost superstar third baseman Evan Longoria, closer Kyle Farnsworth, and four others.

The Yankees are without relievers Mariano Rivera, Dave Robertson, and Joba Chamberlain, and starter Michael Pineda.

The Blue Jays probably have suffered the fewest injuries, but they lost closer Sergio Santos and starters Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch.

Cherington has been on the phone constantly to keep up with the injuries. He’s caught in a tough place because he knows at some point Crawford and Ellsbury are coming back. So how do you go out and trade for a significant starting player knowing you will have to make room soon for your high-priced players?

Cherington said he’s been trying to upgrade, but upgrades cost money and prospects. So he does what other GMs try to do - suck it up and try to stop the bleeding from within. But the well has to run dry sometime.

Which is why it’s good to have the option of Gonzalez in right, Youkilis at first, and Middlebrooks at third.

As Cherington said, you can’t do this every day, but it’s an option that has to be considered. For as much as Youkilis has said in the past that playing third base is less strenuous on him because it’s his natural position, since he’s shifted there from first base, he’s had a lot of his injuries.

At the very worst, Gonzalez has the best outfield arm (with the exception of Lin, who likely won’t play much) of any Sox outfielder.

Solutions? There are few.

But the Sox appear to be willing to try to be creative in an attempt to wait for the epidemic to be over.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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