The Boston Red Sox may have just dodged a major bullet.
Leadoff hitter and starting center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was forced to leave Sunday’s spring training game with a jammed heel according to MLB.com’s Ian Browne. Fortunately, he has since downplayed the severity of his injury and is not expected to miss any regular season games.
Ellsbury tweaked his heel against the Philadelphia Phillies when he landed awkwardly returning to first base after an attempted pickoff throw by pitcher Cliff Lee in the top of the first inning. He remained in the game and was thrown out stealing to end the inning, but didn’t come back after returning to the dugout.
After the game, Ellsbury told Browne he could have continued playing, but the team made the decision to be cautious. He explained, “I told [trainer] Rick [Jameyson] to tape it up and let's go. But I feel good. It just got a little tight, but it's nothing of a concern… The way I feel, I feel good about it.”
Ellsbury was held out of Monday’s game in an effort to give him consecutive days off.
The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported that Red Sox manager John Farrell was also optimistic about Ellsbury’s health. The skipper shared, “We took him out for precautionary reasons… Hope this is nothing more. Once we get past the off-day [Tuesday] we’re cautiously optimistic he gets back.”
Farrell confirmed Monday to Browne that he expects Ellsbury back on the field in short order:
Jacoby came in today feeling a little bit sore after he rolled the ankle yesterday. But taking him out of yesterday's game was as much precautionary as anything, so we're hoping today and tomorrow gets him ahead of it a little bit. We're going to keep him off his feet and not take any BP today, so Wednesday would be ideal that he gets back on the field.
The Red Sox and their fans have good reason to feel nervous when hearing Ellsbury’s name associated with the word injury. In his six-year major league career, he has combined tantalizing talent with a frustrating trend of experiencing persistent injuries.
The 29-year-old left-handed hitter finished second in American League MVP voting in 2011 after hitting .321 with 32 home runs, 105 RBI and 39 stolen bases in 158 games. But, he also missed 144 games in 2010 and 88 in 2012, and was underwhelming in the games in which he did appear those seasons.
For his career, he has played in a total of 581 games and hit .297 with 56 home runs, 261 RBI and 189 stolen bases.
Ironically, Ellsbury’s injury occurred shortly after the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson reported that the team had discouraged the speedy outfielder from stealing bases this spring in an effort to keep him healthy for the regular season.
Having previously shown what a dynamic player he can be, he is an integral part of Boston’s lineup. Missing significant time because of injury could be devastating to the team, which is coming off 93 losses in 2012.
Despite his recent scare, it appears Ellsbury is on track to start the season and put in a full and productive year. But, Red Sox Nation will probably breathe a little easier when he is seen out on the field once again.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference