NEW YORK — Carl Crawford may have played his final game of the season for the Red Sox.
The team will decide Monday whether Crawford will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. Given the words general manager Ben Cherington used on Sunday, surgery seems inevitable.
Crawford could have the surgery as early as Wednesday. Dr. James Andrews, who diagnosed the injury in April, would perform the surgery.
“This is a real injury he’s playing with and we’ve got to take it seriously,” Cherington said. “He’s been playing through an injury because the team is trying to win games. But with this decision we need to focus on what’s best for Carl.”
Cherington said that the team’s medical staff, working with Crawford, would make the final decision.
As the Globe reported Saturday, Crawford has been seeking a resolution of the situation. He has played 31 games with the injury. With the Red Sox 7½ games out in the AL wild-card race, the timing makes sense for Crawford to have surgery now rather than wait until after the season.
“He’s got a UCL injury, it’s pretty clear. Everyone knows that. He’s been playing on it,” Cherington said. “This is a long-term contract; he’s here for a long time. We’ve got to be assured we’re doing the right thing for him and ultimately for the team, too. This is not a short-term investment.”
Cherington said the Sox were initially hopeful Crawford could avoid surgery.
“But we’ve known that surgery was a possibility if the symptoms didn’t go away and he didn’t feel like he could play at a high level for a long time,” Cherington said. “We are where we are today. He’s played well and to his credit he’s gutted through this for the team. I think we’ve had enough time to know and we have enough information to get together [on Monday] and make a decision for the rest of the year.”
Crawford declined comment. But he has said for weeks that he believes surgery is necessary. Cherington said no further examination of Crawford’s elbow is planned, another sign that surgery is imminent.
For position players, Tommy John surgery usually requires 6-8 months of rehabilitation. By having surgery now, Crawford could be ready for Opening Day in 2013.
Crawford started in left field in a 4-1 loss to the Yankees Sunday night and went 1 for 4. He is hitting .282 with three home runs and 19 RBIs since returning from the disabled list.
Bard to return
Daniel Bard has struggled since being optioned to Triple A Pawtucket June 5. But Cherington said the righthander would be back in the majors soon, perhaps before rosters expand Sept. 1.
“He’s going to be back in the big leagues,’’ Cherington said. “I don’t know when it’s going to be. But it’s important to get him in this environment again and around people he knows well. We’re trying to find the right time to do that and to do it in a way that’s fair to everyone.”
Bard has a 7.45 earned run average in 28 appearances for Pawtucket. In 29 innings, he has allowed 26 hits and 29 walks with nine hit batters and nine wild pitches.
Bard was 5-6 with a 5.24 ERA for the Sox before control problems led to his demotion. He has yet to solve those issues but the Red Sox want to give him another chance.
“He’s not the first really good pitcher to go through a bad time and he’s going to come back from it,” Cherington said. “Part of that is getting him back in this environment and continuing the work he has started.”
With the Red Sox falling out of contention, more waiver trades could happen. Playoff rosters don’t have to be set until Aug. 31.
Players such as Aaron Cook, Mike Aviles, and Scott Podsednik could draw interest from contending teams.
“I don’t think it’s a 12-day question,’’ Cherington said. “Every day we consider doing things. That’s another marker on the calendar, certainly. But every day we consider doing things. We knew that this stretch of games — Texas, New York, and LA — were important and we’ll see were we are afterward.”
The Sox open a three-game series against the Angels Tuesday.
Cherington said he was not looking to make a deal but would consider opportunities if he felt there was a long-term advantage to be gained.
The Red Sox got some good news regarding Brian Johnson, the 21-year-old lefthander who was struck on the left side of his face by a batted ball during the Futures at Fenway doubleheader on Saturday.
Johnson suffered multiple fractures, but not a concussion.
“He’s good,” said Cherington, who was waiting to hear if Johnson had been released from the hospital. “There are no concussion signs, no neurological signs or anything like that. But he got hit pretty good. He’s alert and doing well.”
It’s uncertain at this point whether Johnson will need any surgery to repair the fractures.”
Johnson was the 31st overall pick in the June draft. The University of Florida player was signed for $1.575 million.
Nava is close
With Crawford about to have surgery, Daniel Nava is getting close to a return from the disabled list. He was 0 for 1 with two walks for Pawtucket Sunday in his first rehabilitation game. Nava has been on the DL since July 29 with a wrist injury . . . Cody Ross was out of the lineup a day after striking out four times. With the team off on Monday, manager Bobby Valentine wanted to give him an extended break . . . David Ortiz was tearing into balls during batting practice but did not do any running drills. He has been out since July 17 with a strained right Achilles’ tendon . . . John Lackey threw 45 pitches in the bullpen before the game and looked sharp, according to Valentine. The righthander, who had elbow surgery last fall, is unlikely to pitch in a major league game this season. But Cherington said the goal is for Lackey to get into a “competitive environment” in September or October.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.