While there were some difficult decisions that had to be made, it was probably a piece of cake compared to the process that Francona went through for most of last season. In 2010, the Sox skipper spent an inordinate amount of time consulting the team's medical staff before he could fill out a lineup card. By the end of last season, the team's roster of players who spent time on the DL stood at 23, and the count of player days lost to injury exceeded 1,000.
You've got to believe that things are going to be better, or at the very least that the players have gotten better and are fully recovered. Let's go around the horn and check out the infield.
Starting at first base with the newly acquired Adrian Gonzalez, the team and its fans are hoping that offseason surgery to repair the labrum in Gonzalez's right shoulder will allow the left-handed hitter to launch more than a few homers at Fenway.
"His surgery was in November, right?" said Dr. Arun Ramappa, chief of sports medicine in the Carl J. Shapiro Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "That gave him a decent amount of time to recover and rehabilitate. And the fact that he's a lefty and this won't affect his throwing is good."
Gonzalez has said that the injury occurred early last season when he was diving for a ball. So I asked if playing through the pain might impact the recovery.
"I wouldn't think so," answered Ramappa. "When there is a traumatic injury, people generally do better. I would say there's a very good chance he'll be fine."
Let's jump across the infield to third base to see if we can get a better grasp on Kevin Youkilis and his thumb injury. Youk, as you may recall, had his season come to an abrupt end in August after tearing an adductor muscle.
"That's an injury that is not very common, but the recovery is fairly straightforward," Ramappa said. "There would be a period of immobilization and then you work on getting the motion back. After you get the motion back, you work on the strength and function."
And by function, Ramappa doesn't mean gripping a pen.
"He's got to get a good grip on a ball and make an accurate throw when he's fielding. Gripping is probably even more important when you're batting, considering the forces that are generated. But again, he'd has plenty of time to recover."
Time away from the game seemed to be a sore point for Dustin Pedroia. Five days after the second baseman broke a bone in his foot, he was seen taking ground balls on his knees while wearing an immobilizing boot. He returned to action in August, but soon after had to close the curtain on the 2010 campaign.
"An injury like the one Pedroia suffered can be a nagging injury," Ramappa said. "Even though a bone can be fully healed, the location of that bone can make a difference in determining when a person can return to full function. If you think about the stresses that fielding puts on the feet -- quick lateral movements, stopping and planting to throw -- it's not that surprising he felt pain back then."
The long and short of Marco Scutaro's injury issue was this -- he was hurting but healthier than most. The shortstop's elbow and shoulder problems might have benefited from a few days rest, but when the rest of the lineup was unavailable for action, Scutaro played through the pain and waited for the relief that only the calendar could bring.
"The good news with all these injuries and with most injuries in general is that the body has a remarkable ability to recover," Ramappa said. "Sometimes it takes a surgical intervention and we're getting better at that all the time. But often the best course is rest and rehab."
That goes whether you are a Major League first baseman or a physical therapist. Francona would prefer to see more of the former on the field than the latter.
Gary Gillis is a contributor to MLB.com. The BID Injury Report is a regular column on redsox.com. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is the official hospital of The Boston Red Sox. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less