Indians outfielder Coco Crisp might not be out as long as originally thought, according to The Plain Dealer on Wednesday.
When Crisp injured his right hand sliding into third base against the Angels last week, it was diagnosed as a partial tear of a thumb ligament that would need at least three months to heal, regardless of whether surgery was performed or not. That would have put Crisp, who was leading the team with a .283 batting average, out of action until at least mid-August.
Now the swelling has gone down, and Crisp was referred to a hand specialist in the Baltimore area, who said Crisp could begin playing ball again within two to three weeks. With a likely rehabilitation assignment in the minors, that means Crisp could be back in Cleveland by mid-to-late June.
Crisp told The Plain Dealer he became suspicious of the earlier, more ominous prognosis when he had little pain and full range of motion in his hand several days after the injury.
That's great news for the Indians, since Crisp has been one of the few consistently good bats in their lineup this season. But it creates a logjam in the outfield when he returns.
If there is a snowball's chance in you-know-where he can play, the Indians will soon promote Juan Gonzalez from his Buffalo rehab stint. By process of elimination, that could mean the end of the road for Ryan Ludwick in Cleveland. Ludwick has no minor-league options left, and the Indians might be forced to designate him for assignment once the time comes to activate Gonzalez.
Ludwick is a solid hitter with a right field-capable throwing arm, and it would be a shame to simply cut him loose. But that decision could be easy compared to the one the Indians might have to make once Crisp is ready to come back.
Grady Sizemore has options left, but he's settling into the leadoff hitter's role. If he becomes a good leadoff hitter, that is a 500-pound gorilla off the back of general manager Mark Shapiro, who traded Matt Lawton away in the off-season. A stampede of wild horses couldn't demote Sizemore right now.
Jody Gerut is considered a building block like Crisp, and Casey Blake was signed to a multi-year contract in the off-season. Manager Eric Wedge will bend over backwards to make sure those guys get at-bats. Obviously, Gonzalez's power potential will keep him in the lineup so long as he stays healthy.
By my count, that's five outfielders clamoring for playing time. Even if Wedge and Shapiro listen to radio talk-show callers by returning Blake to third base and putting struggling Aaron Boone on the next freighter to Russia, it still doesn't entirely erase the logjam.
Too much talent is always a good thing. Finding ways to keep said talent happy and rust-free is another story.