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Wrist surgery will set Carl Crawford back

Coming off a tough season, Carl Crawford is not off to a good start in 2012, either.

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Coming off a tough season, Carl Crawford is not off to a good start in 2012, either. Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Carl Crawford’s shot at redemption will have to wait. The Red Sox left fielder underwent surgery on his left wrist yesterday and is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day.

Crawford felt pain when he started to swing a bat earlier this month and was sent for tests. Dr. Donald Sheridan, a specialist based in Scottsdale, Ariz., diagnosed Crawford with cartilage damage and performed surgery.

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The hope is for Crawford to start swinging a bat at some point during spring training. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said he expects Crawford to play “the bulk’’ of the season.

“We’re not ruling out Opening Day,’’ Cherington said. “But we’re not going to put a timeline on it. Carl will be ready exactly when he’s ready.

“There’s nobody who works harder than Carl. I’m confident he’ll be back and playing soon. But we just don’t exactly when.’’

Specifically, Crawford had damage to the triangular fibrocartilage, an area on the outside part of the wrist. Sheridan did an arthroscopic debridement to shave down the damaged tissue. Sheridan also operated on Crawford in 2008 to repair a tendon injury in his right hand.

Cherington said the wrist injury bothered Crawford at times last season but was not something that required surgery.

“It’s certainly common for hitters to have periodic symptoms in that area,’’ Cherington said.

But the pain Crawford felt this time was more troubling.

“[It was] consistent with the soreness he’s had periodically over the last several years but concerning to Carl given the time of the year he was feeling it,’’ Cherington said.

Crawford’s first season with the Red Sox was a disaster. Signed to a landmark seven-year, $142 million deal, the left fielder hit .255 and scored 65 runs, the fewest of his career. He was dropped down in the lineup early in the year and never truly recovered.

The season ended with Crawford sprawled in the grass at Camden Yards in Baltimore, unable to catch a shallow line drive off the bat of Robert Andino in the bottom of the ninth inning. The RBI single left the Red Sox in third place and out of the playoffs.

Crawford termed his performance “embarrassing personally’’ and vowed to start proving his worth in 2012. Now comes this setback.

“Based on the information we have,’’ said Cherington, “this is an opportunity for Carl to feel better and be healthier when he’s recovered from this procedure and go on to the 2012 season with a fresh mind and confident that his wrist is feeling good and in a position to be Carl Crawford.’’

For the Red Sox, it was the latest blow in what has been a tumultuous offseason. But with spring training a month away, Cherington said the latest news wouldn’t dramatically change how he plans to construct the roster.

“We’ll certainly keep our eyes open,’’ he said. “If there’s ways to protect ourselves and increase depth before spring training, we’ll look for that between now and spring training. But right now we feel we have some options even if Carl’s not ready quite on Opening Day.’’

Assuming Ryan Sweeney plays right field, the Red Sox would have Darnell McDonald available to fill in for Crawford. Mike Aviles, an infielder with limited outfield experience, is another possibility.

The Red Sox have defensively gifted Che-Hsuan Lin on their 40-man roster. Juan Carlos Linares, a 27-year-old prospect from Cuba, also could get a look in spring training.

There are free agents who would provide an upgrade. But with Crawford not expected to miss much time, a high-profile addition seems unlikely.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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