Jacoby Ellsbury out at least 4-6 weeks

BOSTON -- Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury tersely confirmed Wednesday that he had a fractured rib.

"I saw Dr. [Lewis] Yocum yesterday,'' Ellsbury said in a session with reporters that lasted less than a minute. "It's a broken rib in the back. It's broken in the same place that I broke it before.''

From that description, the rib that Ellsbury fractured was the same one that he contended went undetected after his April 11 collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre. It wasn't until he sought a second opinion from Yocum after going back on the DL in late May that an MRI of his back showed the fractured rib in the back.

The Red Sox medical staff asserted that the rib was fractured when Ellsbury dived for a ball on May 22 in Philadelphia. Ellsbury said he was told by Yocum that the rib was fractured, along with four others, in the original collision with Beltre.

"Basically when I come back, I'll be stronger than ever, when I do come back,'' Ellsbury said.

He then said, "Thank you," and broke free from the circle of reporters surrounding him.

Minutes later, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, in his daily media session with reporters, confirmed the diagnosis of a fractured rib, saying he had spoken Wednesday morning with Yocum and trainer Mike Reinold.

"He's going to need to heal,'' Francona said.

Francona added, "We're looking at 4 to 6 weeks, minimum" for Ellsbury to recover. Six weeks would be Sept. 30, when there would be just three games remaining in the regular season.

"There's a chance this season might be over,'' Francona said. "I don't know that we want to write it off.''

Francona said that while Ellsbury was injured in a collision last Friday night with Texas pitcher Tommy Hunter, it's not possible to say with certainty if that was the moment in which the rib was fractured.

"My instincts tell me the kid was probably a little more sore than he was letting on,'' Francona said. "Probably for obvious reasons. He wanted to play, and he was catching some heat from a lot of you [reporters], all you tough guys, and he's probably a little more tender, maybe more susceptible.

"Maybe he wasn't. Nobody really knows. That's kind of consistent with what Tom (Gill, Sox medical director) said, what Dr. Yocum said, so it's broken and it's got to heal.''

The "tough guys" remark apparently was directed at media members who have raised the issue of whether Ellsbury was "soft," contending that Ellsbury should not have needed so much time to recuperate. Ellsbury has rejected that criticism, as has his agent, Scott Boras. They have contended that because the fifth fractured rib went undetected, Ellsbury sustained additional damage, including a nerve problem and a strained back muscle, that prolonged his recovery.

Francona also took issue to the "soft" line of questioning during his weekly radio appearance on WEEI Wednesday afternoon. Asked if he thought Ellsbury was soft, Francona said: "No. And I think for anyone to ever say that, especially for a radio host, is very disrespectful. Talking tough on the radio is a lot different than running into a wall or getting hit with a pitch. It's easy to be a tough guy when you get away from the field. But if you ever walk down to the field for a minute and feel how hard that baseball is -- I mean, this guy's getting beat up.

"To get to this point in their career, they've had to -- I know a lot of people think they're pampered athletes -- but they've had to work pretty hard, and they've had to go through a lot. I guess I probably get a little bit protective of these guys because I think they deserve it."

The criticism clearly has worn on Ellsbury, who has been consistently cooperative and accessible with the media but took no questions Wednesday.

"Our main objective now is to let this thing heal,'' Francona said. "The kid's had a tough year. Pretty unfortunate year. We gotta let it heal. I don't think anybody would write off the season, but it may not happen, so I think we have to be prepared for that.

"If something good happens, good. But right now is to let this kid get better.''

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years.