Crawford’s Injury Tests Boston’s Outfield Depth Early

Short term injuries litter the landscape of spring training, so it doesn’t usually mean too much when a player is shut down for a few days, as the Red Sox did Monday with Carl Crawford. This time, the consequences appear more serious, as the outlook is less bright for the 30-year-old coming off January wrist surgery. From manager Bobby Valentine, via the Boston Globe:

The Opening Day thing is probably not realistic. It’s not the calendar. He’ll be ready when he’s ready. As we talked about before he got here and we’ve reiterated that Carl loves to do a lot of stuff and it’s probably not in his best interest at this time to overdo it. It’s more work than his wrist needs at this time.

It isn’t known exactly how long Crawford will be out, although the thinking is he may need to start the season on the disabled list in order to take either a minor league rehab assignment or take extra at-bats in extended spring training to ready himself for the season. With just four playoff spots available for five very solid teams in Boston, New York, Tampa Bay, Texas and Los Angeles of Anaheim, how the Red Sox and their newest attempts at outfield depth respond to this first test could be key come October.

The result is an early test for the outfield depth of the Red Sox, arguably the weakest area of last season’s roster. Beyond Jacoby Ellsbury and his MVP-caliber year, the Red Sox got very little out of their outfield. Josh Reddick was the only other Red Sox outfielder to post an above-average wRC+ on the season, with players like Crawford, J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald all struggling, limping to a combined -0.8 WAR.

Ellsbury and McDonald are 2012’s only holdovers. Reddick is gone as part of the Andrew Bailey deal, with Ryan Sweeney coming over from Oakland to take his place. Cody Ross is in as the right-handed power bat. Ryan Kalish offers youth with potential after dealing with injuries in 2011.

The foursome behind Ellsbury may not offer All-Star level talent, but it is well balanced. McDonald and Sweeney offer solid corner gloves from the right and left side of the plate respectively, with Ross and Kalish offering more pop. As a result, the Red Sox have the ability to work the platoon matchups on each side of Ellsbury, with defensive replacements or pinch-hitters available for almost any conceivable situation.

As such, the Red Sox should be able to work around Crawford’s injury, particularly if it is as short-term as the Globe article suggests. However, considering the injury is to an area surgically repaired just two months ago, the concern of a lingering issue is a real one.

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