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Arthroscopic surgery for Lugo

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  March 15, 2009 10:07 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Julio Lugo will undergo arthroscopic surgery Tuesday in Boston, manager Terry Francona said. Dr. Thomas Gill will perform the operation, which will determine the significance of Lugo's injury, feared to be a torn meniscus.

"The extent of what's going on it there, it's a little hard to determine the severity, or lack of severity," Francona said this morning. "That's why we have Tom. Tom treats the symptoms, not just the MRI [which Lugo received Friday night]. And they're pretty conclusive that something is going on."

Lugo, who remains here with the team for now, experienced continued soreness yesterday and felt no different today. The timetable for Lugo's return will be determined by the procedure on Tuesday.

"There's no way any of us can know," Francona said. "I don't think this is going to be a terribly long procedure, how long he misses. But we just don't know. That's why we try to be a little careful."

Still, the team has some estimate. Jason Varitek underwent the same procedure in 2007 and missed three weeks, general manager Theo Epstein said. It's actually possible, but not likely, that the scope will find less damage and Lugo could return more quickly than three weeks, Epstein said. The main question is whether the scope reveals more serious than the team figures.

“Our expectation is that he’s going to be back and available real close to opening day,” Epstein said. “If he misses time in the season, we’re talking days unless we find something that we don’t expect to see in there.”

While the Red Sox await word on Lugo, his potential absence creates a possible need for a utility infielder. Francona mentioned Nick Green, Angel Chavez, and Ivan Ochoa by name as candidates to fill the position if it becomes necessary.

"It doesn't really change your evaluation," Francona said. "We're always trying to get a good read on what guys can do."

Green has been one of the hottest Red Sox hitters at spring training, batting .387 with two home runs and two doubles; he's also been hit by four pitches. Chavez, who played for Panama's World Baseball Classic team, has shown eye-opening power hitting from the right side. Ochoa has been particularly reliable in the field.

Gil Velazquez could be another logical candidate. After a decade in the minors, Velazquez made his major league debut late last season with the Red Sox and, after Mike Lowell was deactivated in the playoffs, found himself on the 25-man roster for Game 4 of the American League Division Series.

"Any time you get an opportunity, you’ve got to be ready for it," Green said this morning. "Things happen in this game that are unfortunate. It stinks. If I have an opportunity because of that, then I just want to go out and take a shot at it."

The Red Sox plan on relying on those players -- all signed this offseason to minor league contracts -- as opposed to going outside the organization for help, partly because the team believes Lugo will not miss an extended period.

"We're going to continue to monitor the situation," Epstein said. "We don’t want to go out and make a major move to replace a player who’s going to be out only that short period of time."

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