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Ouch! Red Sox face cascade of injuries with season in the balance

09.14.11 at 11:34 pm ET

The Red Sox have been a relatively healthy club for much of the year, and so it would be unseemly for them to complain, particularly given that nearly every team is dealing with its share of aches and pains (and worse) with the 162-game season reduced to its final weeks. Nonetheless, that doesn’t make it any easier for the Sox to shrug off a wealth of injuries that has struck several key members of the club at virtually the same time.

“You’€™d like to be full strength, for sure, this time of year especially, in the middle of trying to get into the playoffs,” said Red Sox starter John Lackey, who pitched on Wednesday through what he described as significant swelling on his left leg, the result of being hit on the shin by a line drive in his previous start against the Rays. “Hopefully those guys will come back soon and we’€™ll get rolling.”

The “guys” to whom Lackey referred were David Ortiz, who missed his second straight game due to back spasms, and Adrian Gonzalez, who left Wednesday’s game prior to the top of the seventh inning due to tightness in his left calf.

Here is the latest on the key injuries currently facing the club:

–Ortiz said that he experienced the discomfort in his back during the flight home from Tampa Bay on Sunday night. He is currently wearing a brace, and while he was better on Wednesday than he was on Tuesday (when he was in the Sox lineup but tightened up to the point where he had to be replaced by a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the first), Ortiz said there is some uncertainty about whether he will be available for the opener against the Rays on Thursday.

“I’d like to be ready to go right now. It’s just, it gets better, go back and forth,” Ortiz said before Wednesday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss to the Jays. “I hope the next few days I’m ready to go. You know what, when I left yesterday, I was feeling better, but I couldn’t sleep last night, it tightened up on me again.”

Ortiz will check in with Sox manager Terry Francona on Thursday to determine whether he is likely to be available to play.

–Of course, if Ortiz is out, it is possible that the Sox could provide Adrian Gonzalez with a chance to catch his breath as a DH for a day. The Sox believe that the calf issue that crept up on the first baseman during Wednesday’s game (he first felt discomfort on a groundout to second base in the bottom of the third inning) is not a long-term concern.

However, it was irksome enough that, when he circled the bases slowly following his solo homer in the bottom of the sixth inning on Wednesday, the Sox decided to take him out of the game.

“The calf tightened up on me pretty good. Hopefully I come in tomorrow feeling good,” said Gonzalez. “I came in after that [fourth] inning on defense and I told them my calf was pretty tight. I played a couple of innings on defense and it was pretty tight. As I was rounding the bases it got worse as I kept going. They didn’t want me to keep going out there and making it worse. Better play it safe than sorry, I guess.”

“My guess is I hope he plays [Thursday],” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “I don’€™t think this is anything that is going to linger.”

Kevin Youkilis said on Tuesday, prior to his return from a few days to rest the bursitis in his hip and a sports hernia, that he hoped that his injuries would not be apparent when he was on the baseball field. That did not prove the case.

Youkilis had a productive day in the batter’s box, going 1-for-3 with a walk (though with two strikeouts). But both at third base, where he struggled uncharacteristically to field a couple of balls cleanly, and on the bases, where he did not slide and appeared to move gingerly, he appeared to struggle.

That will likely remain the case going forward. Youkilis has been told that he can’t do more damage to himself for a condition that will require offseason surgery. Nonetheless, it is fairly apparent that he will not be able to play unencumbered.

–Lackey said that despite the significant swelling in his leg, he was fine. He had his best outing in weeks, giving up two runs in 5 1/3 innings while striking out four and walking one. It was the first time in 10 starts that the right-hander had permitted fewer than three runs.

Erik Bedard was limited to light toss on the field for the second straight day as he tries to work his way back from a lat strain. To date, the Sox have yet to identify when the left-hander — who last pitched on Sept. 3 — will next start.

“I don’€™t know how close we are to having him pitch. We’€™d love for him to pitch. We don’€™t want to rush for him to pitch because that’€™s not going to help anyone. We’€™re just kind of take it day by day and see when he’€™s ready,” said Francona. “We know where we’€™re at. We need to win games. but we also, you don’€™t want to make decisions based on urgency where they end up hurting you instead of helping you.”

–While Daniel Bard is struggling through a difficult stretch that has seen him absorb losses in each of his last three outings, pitching coach Curt Young said that the right-hander is physically fine, and that his delivery issue is not evidence of an injury.

“His arm’s feeling great, health is good, the one little thing he’s feeling [in his delivery] isn’t working for him, so we’ll get him back going in the right direction,” said Young. “I think everybody’s beat up physically a little bit. The season’s so long and you play 162 games and sometimes it shows up physically at the end as well as mentally. Like I say, we’ll get back on it tomorrow and he’ll be fine.”

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