July 29, 2012
NEW YORK —
Carl Crawford says he needs Tommy John surgery.
What the Red Sox really need is Tommy John of 1977. What the Red Sox really need is a road map to get them rowing in the same direction.
As the rain fell Saturday on a delayed start to the alleged greatest rivalry in sports, the Red Sox desperately needed a dominant performance from Jon Lester. Yes, the thread on the 2012 season already had worn that thin, and a seventh loss in eight games would have been a fairly mighty message to Ben Cherington at the trade deadline to forget about loading up for a stretch run.
As Bobby Valentine sat there in the pre-game press conference making weird gyrations to prove how "wild" he wasn't in defying medical opinion on Crawford's left elbow, the Red Sox manager never seemed more disconnected from the wishes of the organization.
And as former manager Terry Francona, now an ESPN analyst, sat there in the visiting clubhouse surrounded by a half-dozen players, happily visiting for nearly a half-hour with Dustin Pedroia, Big Papi and others, the Red Sox never seemed so strangely disconnected from the reality of an increasingly desperate situation.
Before the first pitch at 6:09 p.m, the Red Sox looked to be a hot disorganized mess.
By the time they had completed an 8-6 victory over the Yankees — thanks to Curtis Granderson getting twisted up on Pedro Ciriaco's ninth-inning triple — the Red Sox still were a last-place team. But they demonstrated they still can score runs against anyone, even CC Sabathia. And although Lester was something short of Cy Young, the good news is he wasn't the hot mess (15.32 ERA) he had been in his losing all three of his previous starts.
Four runs allowed, including two homers, doesn't officially qualify as a quality start, but by Lester's recent standards? It was a freaking thing of beauty.
Yet when Crawford finds out after the fact that he had been placed on a "four-day program," a recovery program that Valentine admitted he initially defied, well, only the blindest Sox fan would say this Saturday was beautiful.
The Crawford situation came off as bizarre. Valentine explained that the left fielder would not be in the lineup because he has been told by the training staff that he has to rest every fifth game.
"I'm learning," Valentine said. "It's preventative and building up. We're preventing in the early going that he doesn't overuse his elbow and we're building up tolerance as we go. I don't think it's going to be four days and a day off all year. I hope not."
Here's the rub. Crawford said he didn't know anything about the program until he arrived at the clubhouse. He was ready to play. And Valentine, who started Crawford in six consecutive games after the Red Sox activated him from the disabled list on July 16, admitted he initially ignored the medical staff's direction.
"I did a manager 'no-no' thing," Valentine said. "I went against what I was told to do. Never to be done again. They told me before a game that he wasn't playing and I did the old veto power. 'Who says he's not playing?' And I played him."
That's when it really turned goofy. Asked if could be assumed that wasn't wild about the program, Valentine made a series of herky-jerky shoulder and facial movements.
"Yeah, I'm wild … I'm not wild," he said. "I understand the situation better now than I did then."
The Red Sox were off Thursday. Crawford hit his first home run Friday. He's .319 lifetime against the lefty Sabathia. Valentine, however, decided to give him the day off and play him against four consecutive righthanded pitchers.
"His numbers against CC, Yankee Stadium, short right-field fence — tough decision," Valentine said. "That's why I get paid the big bucks."
Of course, Crawford, who still has more than five years left on a $142 million contract that Red Sox ownership regrets every morning it wakes up, gets paid even bigger bucks. There have been reports that the Red Sox would trade him in a blink if they could and had tried unsuccessfully to deal him to the Marlins for Jose Reyes.
"I'm just going along with how things are," Crawford said. He also said his elbow hurts every day, yet he was "embarrassed" not to be playing Saturday.
So many messages were mixed, except maybe the unspoken message that Valentine is reportedly not pleased with all the authority being afforded to head physical therapist Mike Reinold.
Cherington has said a number of times that the Red Sox position is Crawford doesn't necessarily need Tommy John surgery. Crawford has made it sound inevitable.
''That's what the doctor told me,'' Crawford said.
In fact, if the Red Sox fall out of the wild card chase it sounds like the sooner it gets done the better off he'll be to start next season. For a position player, Crawford says, he's hearing it'll take five or six months recovery.
"That would be the smart thing to do if we're out of it," Crawford said. "The later I wait to get it done, the more time I'll miss.
"I tried to get back so quick and help the team. If we're still in it, I want to do that. But if not, you probably have to look into [surgery]. I figure one day it'll blow out and when that happens, it's time to go."
Lester, meanwhile, was looking to do something, anything about his string of recent blowouts. The 11 runs he allowed to Toronto last Sunday were the most by a Red Sox pitcher in 29 years.
After an extended bullpen session in Texas Wednesday, pitching coach Bob McClure told reporters that Lester had been swinging his leg in such a way that it changed the angle he released the ball. He believed Lester was back on track, back to his delivery of 2010.
Let's state the obvious: The Red Sox are going nowhere without quality second halves by Josh Beckett and Lester. They can't trade Beckett because of his contract and they don't want to trade Lester, who should be in his prime at age 28. Lester, 10-13 since the 2011 All-Star break and 5-8 with a 5.49 ERA in 2012, set down the first eight Yankees he faced before Chris Stewart homered. Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run homer in the fifth to give Lester a 6-1 lead. Lester gave up three in the bottom of the fifth. Still, so-so looked so good, so good compared to his previous starts.
"The last couple years, according to him, he hasn't felt as good physically as he feels right now and had to pitch more," Valentine said. "[This year] it seems like he was trying to overpower hitters."
"Tonight, Jon had what we needed. Before [the fifth] and after it, he was perfect. It was that one inning that he let it get away a little. He kept the ball down, changed sides of the plate and mixed his pitches."
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