Carl Crawford is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on Thursday, as the Red Sox season just isn't going well enough to justify keeping him out there any longer. It will take him up to nine months to recover, according to general manager Ben Cherington, meaning that he will likely be ready a few weeks into the 2013 season at the earliest. With both his wrist and elbow taken care of, Crawford will (presumably) be healthy for the first time since donning a Red Sox uniform come next year. That's all to the good, for both the Sox and Crawford, and with the Red Sox season ending sans playoffs barring a miracle, it was the right thing to do.
The only replacement on hand at the moment is Scott Podsednik, who has hit .349/.375/.434 for the Red Sox in 92 plate appearances. That will change soon enough, though, as rosters are expanding in less than 10 days, giving the Red Sox major-league access to the outfielders on the 40-man roster: Ryan Kalish, Che-Hsuan Lin, and Daniel Nava. The last of those might be the most likely to receive playing time, as figuring out just what they have in a healthy Daniel Nava is up there with figuring out if Ryan Kalish is big-league ready on the Red Sox to-do list.
Nava started out the 2012 season hot, hitting .339/.452/.517 through his first 38 games and 147 plate appearances. That was an unrealistic expectation for him going forward, in part due to a .404 batting average on balls in play, but what came after was far below what Nava is capable of as well: from that point forward, the switch-hitting outfielder managed a .123/.253/.222 line. Nava was dealing with a wrist injury for much of the last month that he played in Boston, and while it was believed some rest and time would help it heal, he eventually needed a disabled list stint to fix it.
It's now nearly a month since his last game with the Red Sox, and Nava has begun a rehab assignment with Pawtucket. He walked twice in his first game back, then hit a homer in his second -- if his timing is fine, he'll likely be back in Boston very soon.
The 29-year-old is likely a fourth outfielder, but given his ability to hit right-handers, along with his vastly improved defense, there's nothing wrong with having him fill that role in Boston in 2013. If he can play a passable right field, he could get himself into the lineup even more often, though we haven't seen enough of him in that position to know if that's in the cards yet. With Crawford likely to miss the rest of this year and the start of 2013, though, and Nava under team control for another five years, he's a useful complementary piece around for occasions just like this one.