NEW YORK — Has Jacoby Ellsbury played his last game for the Boston Red Sox?
“No,” says Sox manager John Farrell. Ellsbury is in Colorado getting a second opinion on the navicular bone in his right foot, but Farrell Saturday said, “He’ll be back this year. It’s just a matter of when he’s back.’’
The way the Red Sox are going, some folks might say, “Does it even matter anymore?’’
These are heady days for the scalding Sons of William Randolph Henry. They have won 12 of 14 and demolished all competition in the American League East. They smoked the Yankees again Saturday, 13-9, improving to a whopping 30 games over .500. They are a lock to play Octoberball and have emerged as a trendy pick to win their third championship in this century. They just scored 54 runs in four games and look like they might run the table and finish 105-57.
All of which makes the Ellsbury situation such a buzzkill.
The best hope is that the Sox and Ellsbury are just being cautious. In the good scenario this is just a bone bruise and he’ll bring his considerable skills back to the Red Sox for the big games in October. He’ll lead the Sox to a World Series title, then sign a long-term contract extension and get his No. 2 on the right-field facade alongside 1-4-6-8-9-14-27 and 42.
The dark side is that the injury is a broken bone. Farrell seems to be ruling that out.
What is known for sure is that Ellsbury fouled a ball off his foot in the seventh inning of a game at Fenway against the Orioles Aug. 28. He managed to single after hitting the ball off his foot, then stole second and scored a run. He played the next five games, then sat out one game, because of a sore hand. He came back to play in Wednesday night’s 20-4 blowout of the Tigers and again here Thursday night. Friday night he rested because of the foot, and Saturday he was back in Boston for more tests and evaluation. Saturday afternoon, Ellsbury flew to Denver, where he’ll be seen by Dr. Thomas Clanton at the Steadman Clinic in Vail.
Farrell sounded concerned early Saturday. He said this is not a “day-to-day” situation. He said Ellsbury was in a walking boot. He said the bone in question was the same bone that ended Dustin Pedroia’s season in 2010 (Pedroia wound up having surgery).
“He [Ellsbury] wants to be on the field,’’ said Farrell. “He feels like he can play right now, but at the direction of the medical people, we have to be careful with this. Jacoby wants to be on the field. He’s kind of [ticked] he’s not here right now.’’
There is comfort in the knowledge that Ellsbury was able to play in seven of eight games after fouling the ball off his foot. This would indicate that perhaps it’s just a bruise and everyone is just being cautious. Ellsbury can take some time off and come back to get ready for the playoffs. He’s hitting .299, leads the Sox with 89 runs, and leads the majors with 52 steals (caught only twice by catchers).
Discovery of a broken bone would change things altogether. Old-timers remember the Sox losing firepower late in the 1975 season when a Vern Ruhle fastball broke the wrist of rookie slugger Jim Rice.
In any event, this could get awkward on several levels. We all remember 2010, when Ellsbury played only 18 games because of broken ribs suffered in an early-season collision with teammate Adrian Beltre. Ellsbury believed he was misdiagnosed and hung out to dry by the Sox medical staff. Last season, Ellsbury played in only 74 games, missing significant time after suffering a shoulder subluxation while sliding into second base in the Fenway opener. In both instances, Ellsbury’s lengthy recovery time made him a target for talk shows and keyboard wiseguys.
Ellsbury turns 30 this week and has come to his hard-earned free agency with a body of work that superagent Scott Boras no doubt can spin into a $100 million contract. It’s established that Ellsbury’s probably never going to repeat his 2011 power numbers (32 homers), but Boras no doubt can prepare a dossier that’ll make Ellsbury look like the Joe DiMaggio of the 21st century.
Meanwhile, the scruffy Sox have shredded the field in the AL East. At this hour it looks like they can get by with Jackie Bradley Jr. or Jon Bon Jovi in center field. What the Sox have done in this past week is truly awe-inspiring and makes you wish the postseason started today.
But the euphoria of the latest Bronx beatdown should not diminish the critical mass of the Ellsbury situation. While Mike Napoli and friends were comparing tape-measure shots and dancing around the bases in the Bronx, the big Sox story was unfolding in medical buildings in Boston and Colorado.