John Tomase

With shades of Ellsbury, Casas injury could be a killer for Red Sox

The young slugger was one of the few dangerous hitters in Boston's lineup.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Anytime a Red Sox hitter breaks a rib, we immediately think of Jacoby Ellsbury.

The dynamic outfielder opened the 2010 season by colliding with teammate Adrian Beltre while chasing a popup in Kansas City. Initially listed as day-to-day, he only played 12 games the rest of the season. Three months into his recovery, he accused the team's medical staff of negligence while reading handwritten notes during a surreal dugout press conference in Toronto that made the phrase "front and back" a part of the sporting lexicon.

Ellsbury's absence was devastating and the Red Sox never really recovered. Instead of a 26-year-old potential superstar manning center, the Red Sox turned the job over to a group that included Darnell McDonald, Mike Cameron, and Ryan Kalish, among others. Sox center fielders hit just .234 and the team finished third.

It's too soon to say if history will repeat itself, and the team's circumstances certainly aren't the same, but the news that slugging first baseman Triston Casas will be sidelined indefinitely with a broken rib is an absolute killer.

Rather than pretend he'll return anytime soon, the team has properly managed expectations since he left Saturday's victory over the Pirates. Manager Alex Cora said then that the injury didn't look good, and he confirmed it to reporters in Cleveland on Tuesday.

"He has a fracture so he'll be out for a while," Cora told the media, including Ian Browne of "Obviously we had a pretty good idea a few days ago, but after all the tests in Boston, that's what came out. We just have to be patient now. Timetable? There's none. This has to heal on its own. We've just got to be patient."

That's certainly ominous, as was Casas's initial description of being in considerable pain. If Ellsbury is any guide, the Red Sox will be measuring their young slugger's absence in months, not weeks.

Fourteen years ago, the Red Sox had a roster that could conceivably absorb Ellsbury's loss, at least on paper. Beltre was a stud during his only season in Boston, Kevin Youkilis hit .307, and the rotation featured a pair of All-Stars in Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Even during a relatively down year, David Ortiz still put up another 30-100.

These Red Sox are in a wildly different situation. Now they're trying to figure how to survive the loss of Trevor Story, and they're desperate to get Tyler O'Neill back in the lineup. The offense features few recognizable hitters beyond Rafael Devers (who is himself going to sit for one more day with a bad knee), and while the no-name pitching staff has been nails, there isn't a proven arm in the rotation.

That makes Casas one of the most important players on the roster and therefore someone they could ill afford to lose. He possesses a game-changing combo of power and patience, and he was just starting to heat up, with six home runs in his previous 14 games. There was every reason to believe he'd grow into an All-Star, and this offense isn't blessed with too many of those.

So now the Red Sox will turn to Bobby Dalbec as their full-time first baseman, even though he's just 1 for 30 and has struck out in 18 of his 33 plate appearances. Outside of an out-of-body August in 2021, Dalbec has basically been a .200 hitter who rarely walks and strikes out anywhere from one third to one half of the time.

The downgrade is considerable, and even if Casas isn't the all-around talent that Ellsbury was, given the state of the rest of the roster, his absence could be even more devastating.

Contact Us