Crisp returns; Pena goes on DL

Crisp returns; Pena goes on DL

BOSTON -- The lineup card that was posted just inside the clubhouse door more than three hours before the start of Sunday afternoon's game had a surprise right at the top: Coco Crisp was back in there for the Red Sox, leading off and playing center field for the finale of a four-game series against the Devil Rays.

The switch-hitter, who suffered a non-displaced fracture at the base of his left index finger on April 8, played two extended Spring Training games in Florida earlier this week and one game for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday.

It was expected -- at least by the general public -- that Crisp would make his return from the DL on Monday night in Toronto. But the combination of the rehab going well and the Boston outfield being decimated by injuries caused the move to come on Sunday.

Crisp didn't look out of place, going 1-for-5 with an RBI single, scoring a run and making all the plays that came to him in center field. But he felt a bit out of place when the Fenway faithful roared with approval for his first at-bat.

"It was a pretty good ovation, standing ovation," said Crisp, who was making his home debut with the Red Sox. "Plus, it was the first one I've ever had in my career. So it was exciting. It was kind of over-flattering. You've got to calm yourself down and relax. I felt like I had three cups of coffee that first at-bat when they were giving me that ovation."

The excitement generated by Crisp's return was offset a bit by the news that Wily Mo Pena, who had filled in well for Crisp, had to go on the DL with a sprained left wrist.

Pena missed the first two games of a three-game series against the Yankees, then returned for three games. But he had to pull himself from Saturday's lineup after having difficulty swinging the bat and catching the ball.

Pena did not accompany the team for the start of a 10-game road trip. Instead, he will stay back and undergo further tests on Tuesday.

"I think it's something, but I don't know what," Pena said. "I don't know what I've got. I just want to find out. When I turn to swing, I can't swing. I went into the cage and took like five swings and I couldn't. I couldn't catch the ball, either. Whenever I tried to catch, it was bothering me."

Crisp could not have returned at a better time. Not only couldn't Pena play, but slugger Manny Ramirez missed the second straight game with nagging injuries to his back and right knee.

Manager Terry Francona indicated that if the rest of the team had been healthy, Crisp would have batted sixth or seventh on Sunday and Kevin Youkilis would have stayed in the leadoff spot. Instead, Youkilis batted cleanup.

When Ramirez returns to the lineup, there's a chance Crisp will hit lower in the order until he gets his feet under him.

"Until [Crisp] gets in that comfort zone, we might drop him down just to ease the burden," Francona said.

Crisp was glad just to be playing again.

"I felt good," he said. "I felt comfortable."

The hit he got was a product of his speed, as Rays starter Mark Hendrickson had the ball deflect off him and then rushed the throw to first.

"I just try to put the ball in play, and hopefully, it either falls or makes it through a hole," said Crisp. "That one, it just got lucky and hit off his glove, leg. I didn't really see it, and I was able to beat it to first."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.