David Ortiz's Potential Injury Comes at Worst Possible Time for Red Sox Lineup So Close to Reaching Full Strength

Editor’s note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine’s words. Each game day, we will select the best Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.

David Ortiz has been a rock this year. No matter who else has been appearing in the Red Sox lineup, Big Papi has been at the center of it all, tearing the cover off the ball through the season’s first 90 games.

Now, with the rest of the Red Sox roster rounding into shape, it seemed like Ortiz would be poised to take his game to the next level thanks to some much-needed stability and protection in the lineup. Then, the unimaginable happened.

Ortiz pulled up lame rounding the bases after Adrian Gonzalez‘s eighth-inning home run on Monday night, leaving the game and putting the Red Sox’ lineup back into the limbo it had just seemingly escaped from.

“He doesn’t look like he pulled anything or tore anything,” Bobby Valentine said after the game. “It’ll probably be some days, though.”

While it’s never a good thing to miss any time, the uncertainly hanging over the situation makes it that much worse. The team won’t for sure know the extent of Ortiz’s injury, however, until he undergoes an MRI on Tuesday.

“I think I’ll be alright,” Ortiz told reporters after the game, along with some choice words to describe his frustration.

If Ortiz is out for any period of time — regardless of severity — he could have hardly picked a worse time for it. With Carl Crawford making his season debut on Monday, the Sox moved one step closer to finally deploying the lineup they’ve been waiting all year for. It would be heartbreaking to take another step back without Ortiz.

“We’ve been playing short all year,” Valentine assured the assembled media, “no need to start anything new now. We’re prepared for it. We’re battle-ready.”

While Valentine deserves credit for his optimism, the manager is choosing to gloss over what a huge factor Ortiz has been — and how big of a void he would leave in his wake.

David Ortiz's Potential Injury Comes at Worst Possible Time for Red Sox Lineup So Close to Reaching Full StrengthNot having a designated hitter of Ortiz’s caliber isn’t such a bad thing in the immediate short term. It would allow Valentine to give Ellsbury, Crawford and Gonzalez some rest while keeping their bats in the lineup. It could allow Daniel Nava or Cody Ross to see a couple of more at-bats here or there while waiting on Ortiz to heal.

But pretty quickly, the cumulative effect of not having Ortiz’s bat around will pile up.

Ortiz set a team record on Monday night by becoming the first Red Sox player to ever walk and record a hit in ten straight games. In accomplishing that, he broke the previous mark held by, among others, Ted Williams.

That’s no joke, and neither is Ortiz’s league-leading 1.025 OPS. The bottom line is: Ortiz has been the team’s best hitter by far this year, and there’s nobody else on the depth chart waiting to step into the void like Nava did for Ellsbury, or Pedro Ciriaco is doing for Dustin Pedroia.

If Papi misses any extended time, that will reset the timer on finally — finally! — getting the Red Sox lineup to where it can make some serious noise in the playoff hunt. And with the team looking poised to go on a run after capturing three out of four games to start the second half of the season, that clock is winding down.