Fractured rib likely to end Ellsbury’s year

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / August 19, 2010

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A frustrating season has come to an apparent end for Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who again has a broken rib.

Dr. Lewis Yocum, who examined Ellsbury in California Tuesday, informed the team that he found a hairline fracture of the sixth posterior rib, the same injury that put Ellsbury on the disabled list for nearly 10 weeks earlier this season.

According to manager Terry Francona, Ellsbury is expected to miss a minimum of 4-6 weeks.

Asked whether Ellsbury could rejoin the team before the end of the season, Francona said, “I don’t know if it is realistic. We’ll see. I think our main objective now is let this thing heal. Kid’s had a tough year, a pretty unfortunate year.’’

Ellsbury spoke to reporters for only 17 seconds, answering one question before walking away.

“It’s a broken rib in the back, broken in the exact same place I broke them before,’’ he said. “Let’s see . . . yeah, basically, when I come back, I’ll be, you know, stronger than ever when I do come back. Um . . . thank you.’’

Ellsbury was asked whether he could return this season.

“We’re not sure yet,’’ he said. “Thanks, guys.’’

Approached later, Ellsbury said his statement would stand.

“I wanted to keep it short,’’ he said.

Rookie Ryan Kalish started in center field against the Angels last night, and Francona said he is prepared for that to be the case going forward.

The Sox, Francona said, would need to “catch a break’’ for Ellsbury to come back before the season ends. “I don’t think anybody would write off the season,’’ the manager said, but a comeback “may not happen. We need to be prepared for that. If something good happens, good. Right now our main goal has to be letting this kid get better.’’

The 26-year-old Ellsbury looked to be on the verge of stardom last season when he hit .301 and set a team record with 70 stolen bases. But a series of rib injuries this season limited him to 18 games. His willingness to play through pain became the subject of debate among fans, in the media, and even within the clubhouse.

Ellsbury was first injured April 11 in a collision with teammate Adrian Beltre in Kansas City while both were chasing a foul ball. After sitting out seven games with what the team described as bruised ribs, Ellsbury went on the disabled list April 20.

He did not return until May 22, and after playing only three games, Ellsbury reported pain in his back and returned to the DL six days later.

Soon after, Ellsbury left the team and went to a private training facility near his home in Arizona. What initially was expected to be a two-week stay turned into five. That led to teammates, most notably Kevin Youkilis, saying they would have preferred that Ellsbury stayed with the team, as did the other injured players.

When Ellsbury did return, he read a statement accusing the Sox medical staff of misdiagnosing his injury and failing to detect the fracture in the back of his rib cage. Team medical director Tom Gill said his belief was that Ellsbury was injured a second time in Philadelphia May 23 while making a diving catch.

After Ellsbury returned Aug. 4, he went 4 for 34 at the plate before colliding with Texas pitcher Tommy Hunter last Friday and sustaining yet another rib injury.

“My instincts tell me the kid was probably a little more sore than he was letting on, probably for obvious reasons,’’ Francona said. “He wanted to play and he was catching some heat from [the media]. He’s probably a little more tender. Maybe he was more susceptible. Maybe he wasn’t. Nobody really knows.’’

According to Francona, Yocum said there was no way of knowing to what extent the collision with Hunter caused damage.

Francona derisively called reporters “tough guys’’ during his interview session before last night’s game, repeating sentiments he expressed earlier in the day during an interview with WEEI.

The Sox also announced yesterday that Mike Cameron will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a lower abdominal tear.

With Ellsbury and Cameron out, Kalish, Darnell McDonald, and Bill Hall will get playing time in the outfield along with J.D Drew, the only Opening Day outfielder to stay healthy this season.

“It’s terrible what has happened,’’ Kalish said. “But we’ve got to keep playing and do whatever we can. We still have a shot to make the postseason.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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