NEW YORK -- Red Sox officials plan to meet with Carl Crawford on Monday's off-day to determine the appropriate action for the outfielder's strained ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. While no medical tests are planned, the team wants to get a sense of whether or not the injury is getting better or worse in order to decide whether he can keep playing or if he will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery.
"We thought we'd kind of circle up tomorrow, use the off-day, talk to him again and sort of look at all the available information again and just trying to work with him trying to figure out the right path for him and for us," general manager Ben Cherington said.
Crawford is hitting .283 with a .308 OBP, .487 slugging mark and .795 OPS in 30 games, not far off his career marks of .292/.332/.441/.774. Cherington said there's "no clear answer" to whether it's more valuable to keep Crawford in the lineup now, as the team tries to sustain its hopes of making a push to contend, or whether it makes more sense for him to undergo surgery now to minimize the amount of time he would miss next season. As such, the GM said that the decision should be made based on how Crawford is handling the injury, rather than on the team's place in the standings.
"I think [we've] got to focus mostly on what Carl needs, what's right for him. This is a real injury he's playing with, so we've got to take it seriously," Cherington said. "Personally, I think he's certainly been playing and playing through an injury in large part because the team is trying to win games and trying to stay in this thing. But when it comes to the decision, we've got to focus mostly on what's best for Carl.
"Our medical staff will work with Carl, our medical staff will make a recommendation, we'll make a decision," he continued. "I don't think these decisions -- rarely a medical decision's made unilaterally. The player needs to be involved and that's what'll happen in this case."
Cherington said that Crawford has never given him a direct indication of whether he is feeling better or worse while playing with the elbow injury. If he is improving, then the likelihood that he could avoid surgery and pursue a course of playing through the injury before treating it without an operation would increase. But, given that Crawford is in the second year of a seven-year, $142 million deal, Cherington said that the focus is not merely on getting him through the rest of the year but on the 31-year-old's long-term health.
"He's got a UCL injury, it's pretty clear, everyone knows that and he's been playing on it. This is a long-term contract, he's here for a long time, so we've got to be sure that we're doing the right thing for him and ultimately for the team, too. This is not a short-term investment," Cherington said. "I think we were hopeful that and have been hopeful that we could avoid it. I think part of the reason to let him play -- and he wanted to give it a shot to play -- was just to see if there are times when a player can get out there even with an injury for whatever reason it doesn't affect them and they can play on it for a long time. Our hope, we're always hopeful to avoid surgery, that's always the first choice. So I think when we talked about it in the past our hope was that we can treat it conservatively. But we've known that surgery was a possibility if the symptoms didn't go away and he didn't feel like he could play at a high level for a long period of time."
Crawford repeatedly has mentioned the idea that the possibility of blowing out his elbow is omnipresent. That being the case, Cherington acknowledged that there's a possibility that there could be psychological benefit to having Crawford repair the ligament so that he does not have to live with uncertainty.
"We want all our players to go out on the field with a free mind and be able to just think about playing and reacting and not worrying about their health," Cherington said. "If it goes down that [surgery] road, I hope that’s the outcome."
Crawford declined comment prior to the game.
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