Boston Red Sox: Update on Steven Wright’s shoulder injury

Jun 15, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright (35) delivers a pitch during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 15, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright (35) delivers a pitch during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox received a positive update on the status of Steven Wright’s injured shoulder, but his return remains in question.

Here’s the good news regarding Boston Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright‘s injured shoulder. A second opinion from renowned orthopedist Dr. Neal ElAttrache confirmed that there is no damage to the knuckleball pitcher’s shoulder beyond the initial diagnosis of bursitis.

This is a promising outcome, but a timeline for when Wright may return to the mound remains a mystery. Manager John Farrell told the Boston Herald’s Evan Drellich that he still has no answer to the question of if his All-Star pitcher will start again this season.

Wright injured the shoulder diving back into second base during last month’s series in Los Angeles when Farrell foolishly used him as a pinch-runner. Wright would return after about three weeks on the disabled list, only to be pounded for a total of 9 runs over 10 innings in his two starts before being shut down again.

It was clear that Wright wasn’t right in those two starts and he recently admitted that he had been pitching “at 50 percent” since his return from the disabled list. Despite that the pitcher himself stated that pain in his shoulder was a factor in being unable to throw his knuckleball with the same effectiveness, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski rejected the notion that Wright was rushed back to the mound.

"“We don’t rush guys back. We don’t really do that,” Dombrowski told the Herald. “The doctors felt he was comfortable to (return), he said he was comfortable to do that. No. I’ve never rushed a guy back.”"

More from Red Sox News

The results would seem to suggest otherwise, but that doesn’t mean that Dombrowski or the team is at fault. Once it was determined that there was no structural damage and team doctors cleared him to play it became a matter of Wright’s comfort level and pain tolerance. According to Dombrowski, the 50 percent estimate that Wright later revealed was never communicated to the team prior to when they sent him back out to pitch, meaning Wright likely downplayed the level of discomfort he was feeling.

It’s not unusual for players to rush back from an injury because they are anxious to help their teams, especially when their team is locked in a tight race for a playoff spot. While Dombrowski acknowledged that players do attempt to battle through injuries to stay on the field, he was adamant that the team would never put a player out there that they didn’t believe was physically well enough to compete.

"“I can’t say it’s a mistake for guys, but I think most pitchers try to pitch through things at times,” said Dombrowski. “It just depends what it is. So I think every circumstance is different. He felt capable enough to pitch, the doctors felt (he was) capable enough to pitch.”"

More from BoSox Injection

We certainly know who to blame for the decision to put Wright in harms way by asking him to pinch-run, a role he of course isn’t accustomed to doing. Point fingers at Farrell all you want for that, but the decision to rush back from the injury falls on Wright. If his ailing shoulder was preventing him from throwing the ball effectively then he did his team no favors by returning early. He’s the only one who could determine how his shoulder felt, so if he wasn’t honest in his communication to the team then how are they supposed to know he’s not ready?

The Red Sox remain hopeful that Wright can still contribute at some point this season. Prior to the injury his name could be found on the outskirts of the Cy Young conversation, so if he can return to that level then it adds a significant piece to a potential postseason rotation that already appears solid with David Price, Rick Porcello and Drew Pomeranz.

If the Red Sox make it as far as the ALCS then they will certainly need a fourth starter. Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz have been great in recent starts, but how much do you trust them in a playoff game? Certainly not as much as they trust a healthy Wright, yet sadly more than they can feel comfortable with Wright at closer to 50 percent.

Next: Red Sox Strut: Ramirez and Porcello

Perhaps Wright will return to make a contribution down the stretch and into the postseason, but this time he better be sure he’s ready to perform at something resembling his pre-injury form.