Kevin Youkilis tears thumb muscle

BOSTON -- The beat, unfortunately, goes on for the injury-plagued Boston Red Sox in 2010.

Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox's most consistent hitter, a Gold Glove first baseman and arguably the team's most valuable everyday player this season, was placed on the disabled list Tuesday because of a torn muscle in his right thumb. Mike Lowell replaced him on the roster and at first base against the Cleveland Indians and hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat.

And while the severity of the injury hasn't yet been determined, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona each said surgery is a possibility. If surgery is needed, Epstein said it would mean the end to Youkilis' season.

But, Epstein said, if Youkilis has to have surgery, "It's something that can be fixed and will heal fully with a simple procedure."

Youkilis, who saw a hand specialist and underwent an MRI on Tuesday, will seek a second opinion from another hand specialist, Epstein said. Epstein said the team expected to have a better idea of how long Youkilis will be out in the next day or so.

"It really stinks," said Youkilis after the Red Sox beat the Indians 3-1 on Tuesday. "[This injury] is very rare. Zero athletes have had it, at least as far as the doctors have said. It was a freak accident. I don't know how it happened or the reason behind it. It just happened.

"If I have to have some procedure, though, it's pretty easy to do. It won't affect me down the road. It's misfortune but I've been healthy for a very long time. I wish I could help the team out, but luckily this isn't career-ending. I'll still be able to play, just not right now."

He said he doesn't remember a specific moment when he knew the muscle had torn.

"It started on the West Coast [the July 19-28 trip]," said Youkilis. "I can't pinpoint when it happened. There was a little swelling and it was tender to the touch, but I struggled with it and I tried to play through it in Oakland and Seattle but it got pretty bad in Anaheim.

"[On Monday] it hurt and the color of it was blue, so I knew it wasn't just a bruise. I thought maybe it was a hairline fracture, but the bones are fine. Fortunately the tendon is not affected."

The injury, which the team termed a tear of the adductor muscle in the thumb, was felt by Youkilis during an at-bat Monday night against the Indians. Youkilis lined out to shortstop, clutching his right hand in agony on his way down the first-base line. He stayed in the game on defense for a half inning, but then was taken out.

To replace Youkilis on the roster, the Red Sox activated Lowell from the disabled list. Lowell, who had been hoping to either be released or moved to another team by the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline because he has had no role with Boston, was inserted into Tuesday's lineup, replacing Youkilis at first base and batting sixth against the Indians.

Lowell saw his first action for the Red Sox since going on the disabled list in late June with a sore hip. The 36-year-old infielder has been in limbo with the Red Sox all season and has not played in nearly a week after hitting four home runs in the span of two games last Tuesday and Wednesday during a rehab stint at Triple-A Pawtucket.

While grateful for an opportunity to play, Lowell wasn't thrilled with the circumstances.

"I think this is not a day for us to be happy," said Lowell before the game. "Our best hitter has a serious injury. I don't think that's ever a good thing. I don't get any joy out of getting playing time when someone gets hurt. With Youkilis out of the lineup, you're not a better team. He has been our most consistent hitter and over the last three years he has arguably been one of the best hitters in the league."

Youkilis' injury is not common among baseball players.

"The doctors are searching for answers," said Francona. "It's quite rare. How it happened is a little hard to explain. He's been jammed [on swings] a few times. We're going to quickly try to get more answers. But it's certainly fixable."

Youkilis was batting .307 with 19 homers and 62 RBIs in 102 games. He was tied for third in the majors in runs scored (77) and led all major leaguers with a .798 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers. He was third in the American League in on-base percentage (.411), tied for fifth in walks (58), tied for seventh in extra-base hits (50), eighth in slugging percentage (.564) and ninth in total bases (204).

But, as both Epstein and Francona stressed, the Red Sox, chasing the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays for a playoff spot in the competitive American League East, will have to persevere, as they have all season despite injuries that have landed stars Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez, Mike Cameron, Jason Varitek and Lowell, among others, on the disabled list.

Pedroia, Varitek and Ellsbury remain on the DL, but Ellsbury is expected to be activated Wednesday.

"Youk's a good player," said Francona. "I can't see this as a good thing, but we'll see. When guys get hurt your margin for error is less."

"This hurts, especially with Jacoby coming back in a day or two," said Epstein. "We were looking forward to getting our full complement back. But it's baseball. Injuries are part of the game. We have had our fair share."