Adrian Gonzalez took a step in the right direction last night. His Eighth inning home run lifted Boston past Kevin Youkilis and the Chicago White Sox, but on that very play, Designated hitter David Ortiz hurt his Achilles tendon rounding second base. Fortunately, Ortiz didn’t tear anything, but he is expected to miss at least a week while he recovers. It’s no secret that Big Papi has carried this Red Sox club with his bat for the entire length of the season. His 65 hits, 58 RBI, and 23 home runs all lead the Red Sox. He also leads the team in batting average, at .316, Slugging percentage (.609), and OPS (1.024). The Red Sox will surely miss that middle of the order production, so who has to step up in the absence of Ortiz?
The bar has been lowered for Carl Crawford, who will play in just his second game of the season tonight at Fenway. Dustin Pedroia has been sidelined with nagging hand and thumb injuries for the better part of the season, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has seen a bit of a drop off in production recently. Jacoby Ellsbury is still working his way back from a shoulder injury that he suffered in the home opener way back in April, and who knows how long it will take him to return to 2011 form? How about the guy that they’re paying 158 million dollars for run production? Gonzalez has hit a fairly respectable .288 this season, but the power has not been there for the highest paid player on the Red Sox roster. The aforementioned home run was just his seventh of the season, in 88 games played, certainly not meeting the level of expectations that Red Sox fans, management, and ownership have for Gonzalez. The power drought goes back to the second half of last season, when he hit 10 home runs with just 44 RBI, compared to 17 dingers and 77 RBI before the All-Star Break. Gonzalez has gotten his hits and gotten on base in that time, but that’s not what he’s here to do. The Red Sox traded for him because they needed a power hitting First Basemen, which he was for the first half of 2011. Boston will rely heavily on Gonzo to clean the bases while Ortiz is on the mend. This is the make or break point of the 2012 season for the Red Sox, can they survive without their leader, in the clubhouse and on the field? There is nobody in the minor leagues that can come up and replace Ortiz the way Daniel Nava and Pedro Ciriaco have filled in for Crawford andPedroia. The only solution is #28. We’re looking at you, Adrian.