Drellich: Red Sox could have delivered better message on concussions

Drellich: Red Sox could have delivered better message on concussions

BOSTON — The right thing for a player to do, if a player has concussion-like symptoms, is report them immediately. For the player’s own health. 

Red Sox manager John Farrell on Saturday afternoon was not critical of Josh Rutledge’s apparent choice to keep the symptoms to himself. Rather, he praised Rutledge’s competitive spirit. 

Farrell was backing up his player, which is his job — to an extent. Concussions, minor as they can sometimes seem, are not the arena where a major league manager should deliver anything but a uniform message to the public: tell someone what you’re feeling.

Rutledge was in Friday’s lineup before he was scratched late because of what was announced as left hip soreness. On Saturday, the Red Sox announced he went to the seven-day disabled list with a concussion that is believed to have occurred May 29 in Chicago, almost a month ago.

“There was a play, when Pedey [Dustin Pedroia] came out of the game on Memorial Day in Chicago, Rut replaced him,” Farrell said. “There was a diving play that he made in center field and that’s the one event that he can pinpoint to that might have been the cause for it. So while he was dealing with some symptoms along the way, felt like he was going to be able to manage them but they really manifested themselves yesterday to the point where he had to say something. 

“The lack of focus, the loss of spin on certain pitches while he was hitting, that became more evident. And then when he went through the ImPACT [Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test] and the assessment, there were a number of fields that they test for that indicates he’s got a concussion.”

Asked if in a perfect world, Rutledge would have said something about the concussion symptoms right away, Farrell said Rutledge would have done so within a couple days.

“But again, the fact that he can’t — I mean, he pinpoints that one event,” Farrell said. “But feeling like he may get past those. I mean, perfect world is a player who [does] as he did. He’s trying to compete and give you everything he has. But at the same time, particularly with a concussion, we don’t know anything until a player indicates. So I can’t fault him for wanting to stay on the field.”

What manager wouldn’t love a player who wants to stay on the field? But that can’t be the bottom-line message when it comes to head injuries.

Farrell was asked if the amount of time between when the concussion was believed to be suffered and the diagnosis meant there was a hole in baseball’s concussion protocol.

“No. There isn’t,” Farrell said. “This is very much a two-way street. When a player doesn’t want to succumb to some of the symptoms at the time he was dealing with — and I fully respect Rut for taking the approach he did. Here’s a guy that’s dealt with some injuries along the way. Didn’t want to make excuses for the slump that he might have been in offensively. But it grew to the point where he couldn’t continue on.”

The point is to never let it grow in the first place. From May 30 on, Rutledge hit .169 with 22 strikeouts and four walks spanning 16 starts and 19 games.

Rutledge, a Rule 5 pick for whom playing time is extra valuable, won’t be the last player to attempt to play through a concussion. He has a responsibility to speak up. Publicly, Farrell did not hammer home that message Saturday.

Eduardo Rodriguez slated to start in Double-A Thursday; could return early July

Eduardo Rodriguez slated to start in Double-A Thursday; could return early July

BOSTON — Helped by a custom knee brace, starter Eduardo Rodriguez could make an early July return to the Red Sox if all goes right from here.

The lefty threw a sim game Saturday at Fenway Park, his first time facing hitters since a right knee subluxation at the start of June. He’s to stay on a five-day schedule and is slated to start for Double-A Portland on Thursday if he comes out of Saturday feeling well.

Rodriguez threw 68 pitches Saturday, manager John Farrell said, and is to throw 75-80 for Portland.

"The key for me is seeing the height of the leg kick,” Farrell said. “The brace that he's wearing now gives him such a greater feeling of stability in the knee that he can be more assertive with the lower half, so the delivery is much more Eddie-like than when he had to adjust in that game in Baltimore.”

One rehab start would be ideal, Farrell said. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said on Friday that Doug Fister could theoretically move to the bullpen upon Rodriguez's return. That’s still a few steps away, though. 

One, Rodriguez needs to get all the way back. Two, Fister needs to perform well enough that the Sox feel he’s worth holding on to. Fister’s first start is to come Sunday.

Rodriguez's progress has been encouraging to the Sox since he began to rehab. Without a setback, he'd return before the All-Star break, setting the team up well for the second half.

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

BOSTON — David Ortiz should stop by Fenway Park more often. 

There may be no tangible gain for his old teammates. At this point, it defies logic to think there’d be tangible harm.

On Thursday evening before Ortiz’s charity roast at House of Blues, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy recalled how it was a no-brainer to plan Friday’s jersey retirement so soon after Ortiz’s exit from the game. 

Kennedy said he was the one who actually broached the question with team management last year. Basically, everyone looked at him sideways because of the implication any other time but right away made sense.

“No person has meant more to the [John] Henry-[Larry] Lucchino-[Tom] Werner era than David Ortiz,” Kennedy said.

Let’s accept the premise wholly: that because Ortiz is so special, the timing for his ceremony deserved to be just as unique. The design of the day was centered on how much Ortiz means to people: fans, the team.

Why, then, has Ortiz been staying away from the ballclub? Dustin Pedroia has been a leader for years. Ortiz is a positive influence. The idea that having Big Papi swing by Fenway sometimes would actively stunt the development of the Red Sox’ identity is a stretch. 

There’s been a grace period of nearly three months. 

“Well I, I could never entirely walk away. I have been around,” Ortiz said Friday night in a press conference. “I have been watching the games and I have been in touch with my teammates. I have been in touch with the organization. You know, I just don’t like to, you know, be in the way of anything. 

“I know that, me retiring, it was going to have a big impact on what we do around here. So I don’t — I tell myself, give everybody their space and I don’t want to, now that I’m not playing, I don’t want to be a distraction. And I know that coming to the field sometimes, it can cause a distraction or something, so. I have been able to keep my distance so I’m not in nobody’s way. But I stay in touch with everybody and I have been pretty busy also, doing a lot of things. 

“But me and the organization, we’ve been talking for a while about me working with the organization. Probably Sam Kennedy can give you guys more info about it. But it’s going to happen, and at some point I’m going to be able to help out somewhere, somehow some way.”

It’d be ridiculous to say Ortiz is the reason Rick Porcello pitched well and Hanley Ramirez homered Friday. It’d be a flat-out lie.

But Ortiz’s presence shouldn’t somehow be a distraction, if leadership and the mentality in the Red Sox clubhouse is as the Red Sox describe it.

"Pedey has been a leader of this team for the entire time he's been here,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “To me, the clubhouse has been a place where guys have felt comfortable. They've been able to come in and be themselves. They have rallied around one another when times have called for that. When you remove an individual, there are going to be other people who step up. I firmly believe that has taken place.”

If that’s the case, then how does what Farrell said in the same pregame press conference yesterday make sense?

“[Ortiz] has a keen awareness that he could potentially keep others from flourishing with the potential thought and the question always being there,” Farrell said. “Well, he is around, is he ever coming back? All the things that I think have been reported on to a certain extent. I think David's keen awareness of himself and how a team works, I wouldn't be surprised if that is at the root of his decision to keep the space that he's done.”

But that decision seems flawed. No one in that room should be hurt or confused by Ortiz coming by occasionally — absolutely not now that the jersey’s hanging. (A little speculation he could un-retire was throwing the Sox off their game? Really?) 

If anything, the team should find comfort in seeing such an important, charismatic man with ties to the group.

Ortiz is special. The team has adapted well without him. If those are facts, the need for Ortiz to stay away doesn’t make sense.