Lugo undergoes right knee surgery

Lugo undergoes knee surgery

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rarely is Red Sox camp so affected by things that happen more than a thousand miles away. But so it was on Tuesday, when the Sox received word that shortstop Julio Lugo had undergone successful surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Now that the Sox know the nature of Lugo's injury -- they couldn't be sure until medical director Dr. Thomas Gill actually performed the arthroscopic procedure -- they can likewise be certain of the timeframe. Lugo will miss three to four weeks, eliminating any chance he had to be ready for Opening Day.

"We'd like to get our eyes on Lugo," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We don't need to make that decision, but it looks like he's certainly not going to be ready to start the season."

Lugo will remain in Boston for the next five to seven days, rehabbing with Sox physical therapist Scott Waugh before rejoining his teammates in Fort Myers. From there, Lugo will follow a natural progression -- to baseball activities, game action and beyond -- until he is ready to join the active roster.

Lugo initially complained of right knee soreness during Friday's game against the Yankees, had an MRI, then underwent surgery following the diagnosis of a possible meniscus tear. Given the commonness of his injury in baseball -- Jason Varitek, David Ortiz and Trot Nixon have all suffered similar tears in recent years -- the Sox are confident that the month-long timetable they have established is accurate.

"I can't sit here and put my hand on a bible and tell you that," Francona said. "But I think history has proven it's pretty close to that area."

History has also proven the need for a sub. Though Lugo's injury makes 24-year-old Jed Lowrie the starting shortstop by default, it also makes it necessary that Boston find a suitable backup.

General manager Theo Epstein said that he did not envision the Sox making a move to shore up the position, meaning that one of a handful of non-roster invitees in camp -- namely Nick Green, Angel Chavez, Ivan Ochoa and Gil Velazquez -- should win a job with the big league club.

Green, 30, is the only one of that group with significant big league experience. A veteran of the Braves, Rays, Yankees and Mariners, Green spent all of last season in the Minors, batting .233 with 12 home runs for the Yankees' Triple-A team in Scranton. But he jumped out to a torrid start this spring, hitting .353 with two homers and two doubles. And he has the perspective that only a Minor League reality check can provide.

"It made me realize what I really want," Green said. "It showed me that the big leagues are way different, and that's where you want to be. I definitely know where I want to be."

Yet Ochoa knows where he wants to be, too. So does Velazquez. And so does Chavez.

"You have to go out there every day and do a good job, and show the manager and everybody that you can help the team," Chavez said. "That's no good that Lugo's out, because we want him to be healthy and help us. But I just have to go and do my job and see what happens."

Chavez, for his part, endeared himself to the Red Sox's front office when he slammed two homers against Northeastern in an exhibition game last month. Those stats didn't count toward his spring total, but Chavez has still managed to compile a .333 average in 18 Grapefruit League at-bats.

"I feel good, because I'm doing my job," Chavez said. "Hopefully I can keep doing my job."

That much hinges upon his performance, as well as the performances of Green, Velazquez and Ochoa. Velazquez, 29, spent most of last season with Triple-A Pawtucket, bouncing briefly to the big league club in September. He is batting .250 this spring. And Ochoa, 26, has the most recent Major League experience of any of the candidates, amassing 120 mostly unproductive at-bats last year with the Giants.

With three weeks before Opening Day, there's still time for any of the four to impress -- though right now, Green's hot spring may have made him the favorite. He's amassed more playing time than any of the candidates, starting his second consecutive game on Tuesday. He's shown by far the most pop of any of them, slugging .432 over parts of nine Minor League seasons. And though his greatest disadvantage may be his age -- there's usually precious little room for a 30-year-old infielder to improve -- none of his three competitors are particularly young.

All four of them are simply in the precarious position of fighting for a job that exists only out of necessity.

"It's one of those things that's, obviously, unfortunate," Green said. "But if there's a spot with an opening, you've got to try to take advantage of it."

"We'll see where we're best suited," Francona said. "We don't want to leave without somebody who can back up and play the infield. It will take care of itself."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.