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Red Sox hit hard by injuries, with Dustin Pedroia the latest

Boston's Dustin Pedroia reacts after being called out

Boston's Dustin Pedroia reacts after being called out on a close play at first in the fourth inning. (Apr. 4, 2010) Credit: AP

BOSTON -- To say the Red Sox were walking wounded as they began a four-game series against the AL East-leading Yankees on Friday night would be an understatement.

Boston already had 10 players on the disabled list before adding star second baseman Dustin Pedroia on Friday. Nick Punto started in his place.

Pedroia hyperextended his right thumb in Boston's 3-2 loss in Oakland on Tuesday. He was injured while diving in an effort to make a play on Kurt Suzuki's single to short right-center in the fifth inning. The ball fell in for a hit and he suffered a second injury to his thumb.

"This is just a freak thing. I dove back for a ball and kinda landed wrong," he said. "I didn't feel it until after the game, so it's not like I knew when it happened. It's just a freak accident."

Pedroia was coming back from a previous right thumb injury: On May 28, he tore a ligament. He stayed off the disabled list that time but missed six games. MRIs showed that the original injury is completely healed, he said, but he has not returned to his previous effectiveness. He is batting .266 with six homers and 33 RBIs. "It's just frustrating,'' he said, "because I healed up from the other injury and I was just starting to feel better and swing the bat better and I dive one time and now this."

That has been the story of Boston's season. The Red Sox have had 19 players on the DL 22 times, as Rich Hill, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Ryan Sweeney have had two stints each.

The Red Sox hoped to have Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury back by this series when both went on the DL in April, but both still are rehabbing in the minors. Even Will Middlebrooks, whom Boston fans heralded as a wonder child, had to sit out his fourth straight game with hamstring tightness.

Bobby Valentine described all the injuries as "ridiculously excessive maybe." As a result, he has had to get creative with his lineup. The Red Sox started four players Friday night who did not make the starting lineup to begin the season: Punto, Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and Mauro Gomez.

After the Yankees scored five runs in the top of the first, Nava doubled and scored on Kalish's sacrifice fly as the Red Sox immediately came back with five runs of their own, helped by an RBI double by Adrian Gonzalez and a three-run homer by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Gomez's RBI single in the fifth gave Boston a 7-6 lead before the Yankees won, 10-8.

Boston called up Pedro Ciriaco and moved Hill to the 60-day DL when they put Pedroia on the 15-day DL. Ciriaco will start at third base in at least one of the games in Saturday's split doubleheader.

"Everyone knows that I juggle lineups. They probably think I do it on purpose," said Valentine, who tried to shrug it off. "That's what the major leagues is all about."

But not even Valentine could shrug off the fact that the Red Sox are 81/2 games behind the Yankees. "I'm not happy about it at all," he said. "[42-41] is what it is. I'm not classifying it. I wish we were better."

New York Sports