Youkilis is lost for the season

He will have surgery today; Epstein may look to add player

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By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / August 6, 2010

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In a season in which the medical news has gotten worse by the week for the Red Sox, yesterday’s announcement came as little surprise.

As David Ortiz said after being informed that Kevin Youkilis will undergo season-ending surgery on his right thumb today in Cleveland, “I knew that was coming.’’

This blow might ultimately prove fatal to the Sox’ postseason chances. After sustaining a tear in an adductor muscle Monday night, Youkilis visited Dr. Thomas Graham at the Cleveland Clinic yesterday, with news coming back that the first baseman will require surgery, to be performed this morning in Cleveland.

“This was [team medical director] Tom Gill’s initial diagnosis as well,’’ general manager Theo Epstein said, “but it wasn’t certain. There was still a little bit of gray area. The reason we sent him to see a couple of specialists was to get a more definite image. Today, with the MRI, they were able to get one that confirmed beyond any doubt that the head of the adductor muscle was indeed torn.

“That creates a certain plan of attack. He needs to have it repaired. He wouldn’t be able to play at a high level without surgery. The silver lining is that it’s a fairly straightforward procedure and we’re very confident that it’ll go well and he’ll be able to have a pretty normal offseason and be 100 percent for spring training.’’

Though Youkilis is expected to make a full recovery for 2011, that doesn’t make the rest of 2010 any easier for the Sox, especially as they begin a four-game series against the Yankees tonight in New York.

Youkilis has been one of the Sox’ best hitters all season, with a .307 average, 19 home runs, 77 runs, and 62 RBIs in 102 games. His absence will leave a significant hole in a lineup that already has been crushed by injuries. Most significantly, Dustin Pedroia remains on the disabled list.

“I think I knew,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “We pretty much had an idea that this was a pretty good possibility. As much as we love having Youk on the field, I would have a lot tougher time sending him out there knowing that he might really hurt himself. That’s no good.’’

Youkilis’s thumb will be immobilized for six weeks, after which time he will be evaluated. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to resume baseball activities. Youkilis told Francona that he would like to join the team on this road trip, if given medical clearance.

“You hear the news that he’s not going to play again this year, it’s going from worse to worse,’’ Ortiz said. “He’s one of the best players we have, no question about it. Not having his defense, his bat, his enthusiasm, it’s crazy.

“It’s not what you want to see, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to take care of that because this ain’t the last year of this ball club. He’s got to come back healthy next year and continue doing his thing. He’s a masterpiece here of this ball club and everybody knows that.’’

That sentiment was echoed by Epstein, who said, “The bad news is we lose a big part of our heart and soul and one of the best hitters and one of the best players in the league. That’s not the type of guy you can replace. It’s a blow.’’

The task of replacing Youkilis will fall primarily to Mike Lowell, but Epstein said the Sox could be in the market for another first baseman, a lefthanded hitter to platoon with Lowell, especially since it’s not clear how often Lowell can play with his troublesome hip. Casey Kotchman and Adam LaRoche, both of whom spent time with the Sox in 2009, would fit that description, as would free agent Carlos Delgado.

“We’re going to monitor what’s out there and continue to monitor the health of our guys,’’ said Epstein. “I wouldn’t expect anything immediately.

“Any move would probably be more of a complementary-type move, in any case. We’re going to probably sit back and see how much Mike can play before we know what it is exactly that we’re looking for. Obviously, a lefthanded complement, a good bat at first base, could be potentially a nice piece to add.’’

The Sox, meanwhile, need to make up ground on the Yankees and Rays. And that won’t be any easier without Youkilis.

“We’re trying to do the best that we can,’’ Epstein said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘Are we putting a team on the field each night that has a chance to play at a very high level and has a chance to win?’ In our case, given our circumstances, are we putting a team on the field that has a chance to get really hot and roll off 20 out of 30 or 25 out of 32 or something that we’re going to need to do to get where we want to go? I think the answer to that question is yes.

“Despite what we’re missing, what we have is good enough to get really hot. That says a lot about the depth on this roster, the quality of this team, setting aside health for a second.

“We throw a really good starting pitcher on the mound every night, I believe, and I believe we have a deep lineup. The injuries don’t prevent us from getting as hot as we’re going to need to get to do some damage here.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AmalieBenjamin.

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