Amid the pomp and firepower of an impressive Red Sox home opener was the snapshot of Jacoby Ellsbury writhing in pain at second base after Rays shortstop Reid Brignac had fallen on his right shoulder.
Ellsbury, who was trying to break up a double play on Dustin Pedroia’s grounder, was helped up by trainers. He held his right arm close to his body as he walked off the field.
Initial report on his injury, according to one team source: “It’s not good.’’ Friday night a baseball source said Ellsbury has a dislocated or partially dislocated shoulder and will miss 6-8 weeks.
The Sox probably would have given up their 12-2 victory if they could keep their center fielder, leadoff hitter, and last year’s American League runner-up in the MVP voting, upright for a full season.
This was the last thing the Sox needed during a season that had already begun without left fielder Carl Crawford, who is out with wrist and elbow discomfort.
“He’s a huge part of our team,’’ Pedroia said of Ellsbury. “You don’t want your guys to go down. We hope he’s fine.’’
Kevin Youkilis said Ellsbury told him, “He felt something move in his shoulder.’’
“Hope the MRI shows there’s no structural damage and that it’s just sore and he’ll be back in a few days,’’ Adrian Gonzalez said. “I feel badly for him. He’s a guy who loves to play and he helped us win a game today. He’s very valuable to our team. All we can do now is pray for him.’’
All that manager Bobby Valentine knew after the game was that Ellsbury was in pain.
“You could see Jacoby in pain after he got landed on,’’ outfielder Cody Ross said. “Any time someone lands on you like that, it’s not good. All we can hope is that there’s no damage, because we need him out there for us.’’
Ross will likely see more duty in center field, although Ryan Sweeney and Darnell McDonald can also play there.
Valentine said he would feel comfortable with any of them in center.
The Sox were expected to recall an outfielder from Pawtucket for Saturday’s game. The most likely candidate is Che-Hsuan Lin because he is on the 40-man roster, thus would not require a corresponding move.
Lin was scratched from the Pawtucket lineup Friday night for its game at Rochester, N.Y. Lin is an excellent center fielder with an above-average arm. It appears Valentine will pare down to 12 pitchers and designate someone for assignment (possibly Justin Thomas).
A long-term injury to Ellsbury would be devastating, as it was two years ago when he broke his ribs and played only 18 games.
The Sox’ offense had been struggling until Friday’s 12-2 victory, but it always works best when Ellsbury is getting on base. Ellsbury was 2 for 3 before his injury. When Ellsbury gets on base, it makes life easier for Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and Youkilis to drive in runs.
Ellsbury had gotten off to a poor start. He was 3 for 23 (.130) entering the game, but he drove in Boston’s only run in a 3-1 loss to Toronto Wednesday afternoon. Last season, he had 212 hits and led the majors in total bases (364), becoming the first primary leadoff hitter to lead the majors in total bases since Bobby Bonds with the San Francisco Giants in 1973.
Ellsbury was using his speed in hopes of breaking up the double play.
“You know, it was a 3-2 pitch and he was breaking on the pitch. I held my ground, just caught it and got rid of it,’’ said Brignac. “Like every infielder does in that situation, we leave our feet because when people are trying to take you out, or break up a double play, when your feet are stuck in the ground, that’s how people break knees and ankles. It happened to Akinori [Iwamura] a few years ago with us. We’re taught to catch, throw, and get off our feet.’’
“Unfortunately, I fell on his shoulder, it was an uncontrollable circumstance, neither one of us, nobody wishes it happened, I wish he would be fine, but it’s just a baseball thing,’’ Brignac said.
Brignac said his whole body fell on Ellsbury’s shoulder.
“I remember my butt and back landing on him, then I rolled over, it was basically on top of the bag; as soon as I landed on him, I knew something was not right,’’ Brignac said. “I could hear him, and it sounded like a very painful thing.
“It happened so fast, I kind of landed on him, rolled off, and he was yelling and screaming a little bit, and I went over to check on him, because I’m not here to hurt anybody, that’s not how I play the game; it was just an unfortunate thing.
“He slid a little late - that was a reason why that happened. If he slid earlier, I don’t have to leave my feet, I can throw and get out of the way. It could have gone both ways, I could have been the one that got injured because of how late a slide it was; I know he’s not that type of player, he’s busting his tail to get down there and break up the double play for his team, and I respect that.’’
Ross is up for the challenge of playing center field. He’s played 375 of his 764 career games in center.
“I’ve always thought that center field is the easiest of the three,’’ Ross said. “You have a direct view of the pitch. You know if they’re trying to throw inside you can cheat in or cheat away. At the corners, you have no idea. The corners are more reactionary positions, while center is more about getting jumps from where the catcher is setting up. You have to be able to run and go get some balls, but I’m really comfortable out there.
“Hopefully, I won’t be out there too long because we want Jacoby back.’’Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.