It's not every day that we have reason to be positive about the Red Sox. But today, with the the encouraging returns of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, the potential reemergence of Adrian Gonzalez and the 3-1 record since the All-Star Break, there are a definitely a few sources of optimism.
But I'm still going to be a little negative. Not because I want to, but because it's pretty hard to look at tonight's lineup and ignore the glaring elephant in the box score.
Let's see if you can find it:
3. Daniel Nava!!!
5. Will Middlebrooks
6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
7. Ryan Sweeney
8. Mike Aviles
9. Pedro Ciriaco
OK, anything jump out?
That's right. Daniel Nava is hitting third. And while we can all agree that Nava's a fantastic and inspirational story, we know that he has no business hitting third for any team in the league, never mind one that has serious dreams of making the playoffs.
In other words, the Red Sox need David Ortiz.
Reports indicate that Ortiz didn't tear or rupture his Achilles last night and won't make a trip to the DL. Good news. However, he is in a walking boot and told reporters today that he should miss about a week. Hmm . . . could be worse. But there are a few concerns.
Mostly this: When Ortiz comes back, will he be the same Ortiz, or is this the kind of injury that might nag at him the rest of the season and chip away at the most dominant and consistent presence in the Sox lineup?
It's probably too early to tell, but we do have recent history to help out with a little hint.
Last night, during Bobby Valentine's postgame press conference, he mentioned that this injury was something that Ortiz has dealt with in the past. So this afternoon, I googled "David Ortiz Achilles" and found that just last summer, Ortiz suffered an injury that (on the surface at least) looks and sounds very similar to what happened last night.
Here's the story from August 18, 2011:
BOSTON -- Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, out with bursitis in his right heel, said Wednesday he likely will miss a week of action.Manager Terry Francona indicated Tuesday night that although Ortiz won't be placed on the disabled list, the DH will miss some time and is required to wear a walking boot."I should just chill, you know, rest," Ortiz said Wednesday before the Red Sox took on the Rays at Fenway Park. "I got this walking boot you guys saw me wearing; just got to wear it for a few days.
Bursitis refers to an inflamed bursal sac, which is filled with fluid and acts to lubricate and reduce the friction between muscles and tendons. When there is bursitis in the foot, it usually occurs in the bursa sac located between the Achilles tendon and heel bone. The sac protects the tendon from the pressure of the heel bone rubbing against it."
Sounds about right.
So what happened last year? Well, before he went down Ortiz was hitting exactly .300 with 24 home runs, 79 RB and a .945 OPS. He then missed 10 days with the injury.
He returned on August 24, and showed no signs of struggling. In fact, he was a beast; hitting .518 with four homers and nine RBI over the last seven games of the month.
Of course, like the rest of the team, his game went down the tubes in September, where he hit only .287 with one home run and eight RBI over 26 games. Was that a matter of an ailing Achilles or the pressure of life in a clubhouse that was constantly on the verge of combustion? We can't be sure. I'm guessing it was a combination of both. But there's no question that, regardless of the reason, the Sox will need more than that down the stretch this time around.
If not, they might as well just stick with Nava.
Rich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.