Crawford of Red Sox Faces Elbow Surgery, Could Miss 12-18 Months

Carl Crawford probably will miss at least 12 months after he has surgery this week on a torn ligament in his left elbow, the latest setback for the Boston Red Sox outfielder, a former All-Star in the second year of a $142 million contract.

Crawford, 31, will have so-called Tommy John surgery in two days to reconstruct a chronic tear of his ulnar collateral ligament, the Red Sox said yesterday in a statement. The team, which at 59-63 is trying to avoid its first losing season in 15 years, said it expects Crawford to make a full recovery, without giving a specific timeline for his return.

Bradford Parsons, an orthopedic surgeon and assistant professor at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said it usually takes Major League Baseball players 12 to 18 months to come back from Tommy John surgery.

“It’s a far more common injury in a pitcher than a position player, but can happen to any repetitive overhead thrower,” Parsons said in a telephone interview. “The recovery may be a little faster in a position player because the fine tuning of their throwing isn’t quite as critical.”

The projected recovery time means Crawford may miss most, if not all, of the 2013 season. The Red Sox have 40 games left this season, which ends Oct. 3, and are in fourth place in the five-team American League Eastern Division.

“He may get back a little sooner, but it’s not like he’s going to be back in half the time or anything,” Parsons said. “The biology involved of getting the ligament to heal, the flexibility of the elbow back, the strength back in the arm, and getting back to throwing and building up the endurance in the muscles is still going to take a fair amount of time.”

Crawford’s Injuries

Crawford missed Boston’s first 89 games this season while recovering from surgery on his left wrist and injured his elbow during his rehabilitation. He played in 31 games after being activated from the disabled list on July 16 and hit .282 with three home runs, 19 runs batted in and five steals.

“While he has been following a conservative treatment protocol and playing with this injury, his symptoms are getting worse,” the Red Sox said yesterday.

Crawford signed a seven-year deal with the Red Sox in December 2010 after making four All-Star appearances during his first nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays.

After hitting better than .300 in five of his final six seasons with Tampa Bay, Crawford batted a career low .255 for the Red Sox last season with 11 homers, 56 RBIs and 18 steals, his fewest in a full season. He’s hit .260 in Boston after having a .296 batting average with the Rays.

The Red Sox yesterday also fired pitching coach Bob McClure, who had taken the job in December after six seasons in the same role for the Kansas City Royals. Assistant pitching coach Randy Niemann replaces McClure as the Red Sox look to solidify a starting staff that has a 4.82 earned run average, the fifth worst among 30 MLB teams this season.

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