Boston's quest for a second-consecutive World Series title took a blow Monday, when David Ortiz was placed on the 15-day DL with a left wrist injury. Ortiz, who was hurt fouling a pitch off in Saturday's 6-3 win over the Orioles, will be out at least a month, according to Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo.
The burly DH has injured his extensor carpi ulnaris, or has a partially torn sheath of his left wrist. Ortiz will wear a cast for several weeks, and then begin to swing 10 to 14 days later, according to Cafardo.
Manager Terry Francona said the tendon itself was not torn, and no surgery is needed. However, there is a chance that if the injury hasn't healed in a month, that Ortiz will have season-ending surgery.
Ortiz, one of the best clutch-hitters in the game, if not all time, got off to a sluggish start this season, hitting just .184 at the end of April. But a change of the calendar saw a change in fortunes for Ortiz, who raised his average to .252 with a red-hot May.
His 13 home runs and 43 RBI both ranked third in the American League as of Monday night.
With Ortiz out, the Red Sox have a gaping hole in the third slot in the lineup.
Look for Kevin Youkilis to fill this slot. It's also essential that Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew step up to fill the power gap left by Ortiz. Drew, who is still struggling to live up to the $70 million contract he signed two winters ago, needs to stay in the lineup and start driving the ball with more authority.
The loss of Ortiz has a trickle down effect on current reserves Sean Casey and Coco Crisp.
Casey, who has hit well (.351) in limited duty, could see some time at first or DH. Or Francona could opt to use Manny Ramirez at DH and start Crisp in center field with rookie sensation Jacoby Ellsbury in left, giving Boston two outfielders who can cover an incredible amount of ground.
If Ortiz is out for the long term, look for the Red Sox to get some help from the minors, in the form of OF/1B Chris Carter.
Carter, who was acquired from the Washington Nationals for Willy Mo Pena last year, tore the cover off the ball in spring training, and is currently hitting .316 with 10 home runs in Triple-A Pawtucket.
For the short term, Boston will likely recall outfielder Brandon Moss, who started in right field on opening day and hit a game-tying home run off Huston Street in the ninth inning.
Losing a hitter of Ortiz's caliber for any amount of time would be a blow for any club in baseball. But, this year's Red Sox feature one of the more balanced offenses in recent memory.
Speedsters Crisp, Ellsbury, and Julio Lugo allow the Sox to manufacture runs. And Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia grind out at-bats, work the count, and expose the opposing pitcher's arsenal.
Boston's pitching is also solid, despite the loss of Daisuke Matsuzaka for two weeks and spotty relief pitching in front of closer Jonathan Papelbon.
In short, this year's edition of the Red Sox is a more balanced team, which is better equipped to handle the loss of Ortiz than clubs of years past.