Life without Ellsbury: Pedroia leading off

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Agent Scott Boras reiterated Tuesday that Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury should return before the end of the regular season and be healthy for the playoffs should the team, as expected, qualify for the postseason.

While Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia both sustained fractrures of the navicular bone, the severity of the injuries are not comparable. Ellsbury’s fracture amounts almost to a small chip on the surface of the bone in his right foot, while Pedroia’s entailed a fracture that went much deeper into the bone and ultimately required surgery and the insertion of a screw.

No medical procedure will be required to treat Ellsbury’s fracture, Boras said by telephone. It will heal on its own, he said. Ellsbury is in a walking boot now, and next will be placed in a very stiff shoe, likely with a titanium component.

The primary issue Ellsbury is dealing with is the swelling around the fracture, and the discomfort that causes. He played through it for seven games, but after the Red Sox played a 4 ½-hour game against the Yankees last Thursday, one in which Ellsbury singled in the 10th inning, stole second and scored the winning run, the decision was made for him to return to Boston for an MRI.

The Sox medical staff detected the fracture, their findings confirmed when Ellsbury went to Denver and was examined Sunday by foot specialist Dr. Tom Clanton of the Steadman Clinic. Ellsbury then returned to Boston.

Once the swelling and discomfort fully subside, Ellsbury will begin hitting in the batting cage, and may DH a game or two before returning to the field. The timing will depend on how Ellsbury feels, which is why the fact that he already played on it for seven games underscores the high probability of his return before the end of the season. Twelve to 15 days out is a reasonable expectation for Ellsbury’s return, which would give him a chance to regain his timing at the plate before the playoffs begin.

Shane Victorino was playing center field in Ellsbury's absence Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays, while Dustin Pedroia was batting leadoff for the first time this season and for the first time since 2009. Manager John Farrell said he is likely to keep Pedroia in the leadoff spot until Ellsbury comes back.

"In Jacoby's absence, we felt like we needed a guy who would see a lot of pitches," Farrell said "I think it might help Shane in the 2-hole to see how pitchers are going to attack a right-handed hitter. It also gives us an opportunity to get David [Ortiz] to the plate in the first inning."

Ortiz is batting third, which has been Pedroia's spot.

"There were a number of things that went into Pedey in that leadoff spot, and I like the way Vic has responded in the 2-hole. Nothing against what Shane has done. I think he's been one of our best hitters the last month or more. I felt it was a chance to get our top four, five hitters in the top half of the lineup."

Farrell talked to Pedroia about the switch before it was made.

"The one thing we've worked hard at is maintaining some continuity," Farrell said, "and if this is one that will give us that continuity until Jacoby returns, we're certainly willing to stay the course."

This is the 111th batting order Farrell has used this season. Victorino hit leadoff in the first two games Ellsbury missed and went 4-for-9 with a double and home run, and scored four runs.