Sox optimistic on Craig's return

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Red Sox are betting outfielder Allen Craig, acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals as part of last week’s Jon Lester deal, will be healthy, even though his performance dropped off markedly after he suffered a serious injury to his left foot last September. Craig is signed through the 2017 season, with a club option for 2018.

So, the Sox took it as a good sign that when Craig had his foot examined this week by the same doctor who oversaw his rehabilitation from his Lisfranc foot injury, no new damage was discovered.

Craig stepped awkwardly on the first base bag last Friday night in his first game with the Sox and subsequently was placed on the 15-day disabled list with what the team called a sprained left foot. This week, he went to the Carolina Foot and Ankle Institute in North Carolina and was examined by Dr. Robert Anderson, an expert in the field who has treated a number of National Football League players, including Oakland Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

Craig was flying back Friday to rejoin the team here, manager John Farrell said, and is expected to accompany the team to Cincinnati before it returns home next weekend to play the Houston Astros.

“There have been no new findings,” manager John Farrell said. “Upon his return, we’re taking every step to ramp up his baseball activities and get him back on the field as soon as possible.”

Optimistically, Farrell said, Craig should be ready to come off the DL as soon as he is eligible, which would be Aug. 17.

Lisfranc foot is the name given to an injury to the midfoot, in which the ligaments of the midfoot joints rupture and the joints become unstable and shift out of place. Because the injury occurs near the top of the arch, where there is a lot of stress when running, it makes it difficult for an athlete to push off. It can also be very painful because of the nerves in the feet.

Craig’s original injury occurred as he was trying to get back to first base in a game at Cincinnati on Sept. 4. He missed the remainder of the regular season and the first two rounds of the postseason before facing the Red Sox in the World Series, batting .375 and scoring the game-winning in Game 3 on an obstruction call after tripping over Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

From the start of the 2011 season, when he hit .315 but played just 75 games because he hurt his right knee running into a wall, until he hurt his foot in 2013, Craig posted a slash line of .312/.364/.500/.863, with 46 home runs in 292 games. His batting average in that span was tied with David Ortiz for ninth highest in the majors, and his slugging percentage was 27th best, just behind Evan Longoria and Albert Pujols. The Cardinals signed him to a five-year, $31 million extension in the spring of 2013, believing they had a cleanup hitter for years to come.

This season, however, Craig has a slash line of .237/.291/.346/.638. The Cardinals insisted it wasn’t a result of his injury. The Sox should hope it was -- better that than a steep decline in skills.

Sox GM Ben Cherington, who was in St. Louis and spoke with reporters Wednesday, said the Sox are confident that the foot will not be a long-term concern.

"Because of what he went through last year, we're trying to be extra cautious," Cherington said. "We want to make sure we get it right… No red flags in the long term."