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Lugo Injury Could Set Boston Infield

UPDATE: Well, Mass General wasn't sure what precisely was wrong with Julio Lugo's knee, either, so he's going to have exploratory arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday, according to Dan Barbarisi of the Providence Journal

The team still expects that Lugo has torn meniscus, but they just don't don't know how bad it is. The damage could be fairly minimal -- 3-4 weeks out or less, as was the case with catcher Jason Varitek in the past -- which would get the shortstop back in time for opening day. Of course, all of that assumes the best possible recovery, too, so it's probably not worth penciling Lugo in to the lineup until we see his recovery start to take shape.

On Friday night, Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo left a spring training game after half an inning, complaining about serious knee pain. On Saturday, it started to sound like Lugo may have suffered a serious injury, with his self-appointed injury signs indicative of torn meniscus, at best.

And that could be the end of Lugo's reign as Red Sox shortstop.

According to this post from the Boston Globe's Extra Bases blog, Lugo felt sharp pain in his knee and "couldn't move" during the top of the first inning, which ended in a double-play in which he wasn't involved. He was immediately shuttled off for an MRI, and both Lugo and his manager, Terry Francona are making it clear that they have significant concerns about Lugo's ability to play anytime soon.

"I'm worried," Lugo said. "Every time you have something hurt, you're worried because I know I'm the type, when something bothers me, when I say something, I'm in pain. Otherwise I'm not going to complain to pain. If you see me coming out, I'm hurting. ... It's been pain. It's been pain, no doubt about that. Yesterday, it just gave up on me ... and I just couldn't move. I just couldn't run."

Francona said that Lugo's injury is being evaluated by Dr. Bill Palmer at Mass General Hospital, after Red Sox team doctor Thomas Gill examined Lugo and said he felt something different with Lugo's knee.

Whether Lugo can come back healthy is a significant question. The two-year Red Sox starter missed much of 2008 with a serious quadriceps injury, and he spent all of the offseason rehabbing for a return. Now, the strong start he'd opened up in spring training -- he was hitting .450 -- will be overshadowed by doubts about his health.

Those doubts might be all Jed Lowrie -- who filled in for Lugo admirably down the stretch and delivered the hit that clinched the AL Divisional Series against the Angels -- needs to lock down the starting job. If Boston has done anything in recent years, they've proven that this management group is committed to giving younger players a chance. Two years ago, Dustin Pedroia struggled out of the gate only to storm back and win the AL's Rookie of the Year award. They stuck with Jon Lester in the rotation when he scuffled, and probably stuck with Clay Buchholz to long during the season run out last year.

If Lowrie hits decently and continues to play error-free baseball, the shortstop job is his. And once he has it, Francona and co. aren't going to unseat him in the middle of the season unless he's really struggling. It just won't happen.

Is that fair for Lugo? Not at all. But life isn't fair, either, and Lugo's had little but bad breaks since he landed in Boston. The only question is whether he'll get another shot to make things right, particularly if Gill's and Francona's fears are confirmed.

By Cameron Smith  |  March 15, 2009; 5:51 PM ET
Categories:  Red Sox  
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