SEATTLE — Lefthander Andrew Miller, a key member of the Red Sox bullpen, was told Monday he needs season-ending surgery on his left foot.
Dr. George Theodore, a foot specialist, examined Miller and found what is known as a Lisfranc injury. Miller has a torn ligament between bones in the middle of his foot.
Miller will get a second opinion before scheduling surgery. But the Sox are not optimistic the diagnosis will change. Miller was injured Saturday night when he planted his foot on the mound en route to backing up home plate.
“Very,” said manager John Farrell when asked about the significance of the loss. “Given the way he’s pitched and the importance of that power lefthander in the bullpen, it is.”
Miller is third on the team with 37 appearances. He has a 2.64 earned run average and a 1.37 WHIP. Over 30⅔ innings he has struck out 48.
Once a first-round pick of the Tigers, Miller struggled with command early in his career and was traded twice.
The Sox showed patience with the hard-throwing, 6-foot-7-inch pitcher, trying him first as a starter before putting him in the bullpen and changing his mechanics.
This season was the best of Miller’s career as he proved reliable in late-inning situations.
“Obviously on a personal level, it’s disappointing and from a team perspective we’ll miss him,” said Craig Breslow, now the only lefthander in the bullpen.
“This team has showed we’re pretty resilient and we’ve had to overcome some key injuries. This is another one. We have no option but to keep on moving forward.
“Andrew been trending upward the last couple of years at a pretty rapid pace. His potential has been documented and he was finally realizing. It’s got to be a tough blow for him.”
Said Farrell: “He was well on his way to becoming a dominant lefthanded reliever.”
The loss of Miller greatly increases the odds of the Sox making a trade to improve their bullpen. The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31.
“We’ll just have to see. We’ve had guys step up all year when the opportunity was there. We need that to continue,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “We’ll see what other opportunities come our way later in the month.
“But when you lose a guy you have to replace him some way. We weren’t planning on losing a guy like Miller and so we have to fill that.”
With so many teams in contention, the market for relief pitchers will be active. But relievers are inconsistent by nature and determining which ones can stand the pressure of a pennant race is difficult.
“It’s tough,” Cherington said. “The most efficient way to do it is to ignore [the trade market] completely. But then you run the risk of not having enough guys out there. We can’t say never to a trade for a reliever just because it’s hard to predict. We have to evaluate each possibility for what it is. If you find something internally, that’s always a better way to go.”
The internal options for lefthanders are scant.
Franklin Morales has appeared in only six games this season and is on the disabled list for the second time with a strained pectoral muscle. He is at least 3-5 weeks from returning.
Lefthander Drake Britton was recently promoted to Triple A Pawtucket. Cherington said there are no plans at the moment to try him in the bullpen.
Ryan Rowland-Smith, who pitched for the Mariners from 2007-10 (47 starts in 115 appearances), pitched well for Pawtucket before needing surgery to remove his appendix. He is not expected to pitch again until the end of the month.
“We’ll look at every internal option. If there’s something that makes sense, I’m sure that we’re open-minded to it,” Farrell said.
The Sox did not have Jacoby Ellsbury or Shane Victorino available Monday night against Seattle and were forced to use a makeshift outfield.
Ellsbury sprained his left wrist Sunday night against the Angels when he took a swing in the fifth inning. Victorino was out of the lineup for a second straight game with a sore left hamstring.
Daniel Nava started in center field for the first time in his career. His professional experience at the position consisted of four games (one start) and 13 innings in the minors.
The oft-injured Ellsbury was not available for comment. Farrell said he is day-to-day and no X-rays are planned.
“He was able to get through [Sunday] night. He was sore afterward and reported today with similar feelings,” Farrell said. “Rather than risk anything, we’ll give him a day out to receive treatment. We’re hopeful this is something that will respond to treatment.”
Victorino came out of Friday night’s game with his injury. He has been dealing with lower back and hamstring injuries for much of the season.
“It’s improving,” he said. “But it’s probably better to wait another day.”
Nava has improved defensively over the last two years. But playing center was not something the Sox ever expected.
“That’s the alignment,” Farrell said.
Farrell said the team would wait another day or so before deciding whether a roster move is needed. Neither player is expected to land on the disabled list at this point.
Buchholz on track
Clay Buchholz is scheduled to throw in the bullpen Wednesday and Friday in advance of a minor league rehabilitation start Sunday. The righthander has been out since June 8 with a shoulder injury . . . The Sox passed infielder Jonathan Diaz through waivers and outrighted him to Pawtucket. Cherington said the team expected to need a spot on the 40-man roster and decided to be proactive . . . Righthanded reliever Daniel Bard, who has not pitched since May 15, is making progress to returning to the mound with Double A Portland. Bard has struggled to throw strikes all season and has been out with what the team claims is an abdominal strain . . . Righthander Jeremy Bonderman, who was scheduled to start for Seattle Thursday, was designated for assignment. Erasmo Ramirez, a 23-year-old righthander, is expected to be called up from Triple A Tacoma to make the start. He is 3-3 with a 3.09 ERA in the Pacific Coast League . . . The deadline to sign players selected in the amateur draft is Friday. The Sox have signed all but three of their top 20 selections. The highest unsigned player is fourth-rounder Myles Smith, a righthanded pitcher from Lee University in Tennessee.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.