Sox can ill afford loss of Victorino

BOSTON -- Good morning from the Edes cave, where I am eminently unqualified to make any predictions on tonight’s Game 7 between the Bruins and Maple Leafs, other than to say this: If the Bruins hit the Leafs the way Shane Victorino hit the bullpen wall Sunday afternoon, they will be advancing in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Whether Victorino will be fit to play against the Tampa Bay Rays remains to be seen, however, despite the optimism expressed by manager John Farrell that the outfielder will be good to go Tuesday night, when the Sox open a three-game series against the Rays in Tropicana Field. Victorino was running at full speed in the fourth inning when he crashed into the low barrier while attempting to overtake Emilio Bonifacio’s drive that landed in the visitors’ bullpen for a two-run home run.

As bad as it looked at the time, Victorino's ribs checked out OK at Mass. General and has been cleared to play Tuesday. Victorino woke up with some soreness Monday, so sitting out Tuesday is not out of the question.

The Sox already have one player, third baseman Will Middlebrooks, trying to play through sore ribs, the result of another collision, Middlebrooks sliding into the low retaining wall along the third-base line after colliding with catcher David Ross while chasing a foul popup Tuesday night. Middlebrooks had five doubles in a three-game stretch before going hitless in four at-bats Sunday, so he is showing signs of coming out of his prolonged slump.

Victorino was having a terrific week until he banged into the wall Sunday. In seven games, he was batting .393 (11 for 28), had hit his first two home runs of the season, had drawn a couple of walks, and was playing his usual superior defense, including a great throw that beat Minnesota’s Justin Morneau to the plate, the run scoring only because catcher David Ross missed with his sweep tag.

This, after missing nine games, including seven straight, with back spasms.

“Put it this way -- I want to be consistent,’’ Victorino said in a conversation last week. “Obviously I struggled the last couple of weeks healthwise. The frustrating thing was never having back problems before, and having something like that flaring up. That stuff is more frustrating than anything.

“That’s why, when I look at Cal Ripken, I give him so much credit, to be able to play in almost 3,000 games (2,632) in a row, that’s spectacular. When the slightest thing can happen, for him to do that is almost magical.’’

The Sox can ill afford to lose Victorino. Mike Carp gave the Sox a lift offensively when Victorino was out earlier, and Daniel Nava handled the switch from left to right field better than expected, but the Sox are short of healthy outfield replacements in Pawtucket, where three outfielders -- Jackie Bradley Jr. (biceps tendinitis), Mitch Maier (wrist) and Alex Hassan (calf strain) -- are currently on the disabled list.

“Is this how I can play when healthy?’’ Victorino said last week. “Track record-wise, yeah. But I just want to be able to be capable to play on a regular basis. An athlete needs to be healthy to perform.’’