- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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TORONTO -- Injured Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury rejoined the club Friday night at Rogers Centre, and Saturday morning he spoke at length with reporters, addressing concerns he had with the diagnoses and treatment he received from the team's medical staff and criticism that he should have stayed with his teammates throughout his lengthy rehabilitation.
Referring to handwritten notes, Ellsbury addressed the media at about 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday, giving a detailed timeline of the events concerning his health since he suffered four fractured ribs in a collision April 11 with third baseman Adrian Beltre in Kansas City.
Ellsbury has spent two stints on the disabled list and he finally began baseball activities Saturday morning after spending nearly a month at Athletes' Performance Institute in Arizona.
"I'm just happy to be back with the team," Ellsbury began. "It's nice to see the guys. It's nice to see the guys have stepped up and have done a tremendous job. I kind of want to talk about the timeline from the incident with Adrian to basically right now."
With that, he began reading from his notes.
Ellsbury explained after the collision with Beltre he had an X-ray taken and was told he had a bruise and was given April 12 off in Minnesota. The Red Sox had an off day April 13, and Ellsbury said he received treatment and was hoping to play April 14 at the Twins' new ballpark.
"When I missed that game I was very disappointed, just to miss one game," he said.
Ellsbury, referring to his notes, then described the situation six days later. He said a decision needed to be made whether he should go on the disabled list or start playing. He was taking Vicodin, Celebrex and received a shot in order to play April 20.
"It was a last-ditch effort to get in the game, but it wasn't working," he said. "I was placed on the DL. I didn't want to go on the DL. It was OK that I kept that medicine. That was fine because I didn't want to go on the DL. Let's just go out there, give everything you got and try to be in the game."
Ellsbury said the pain and discomfort did not get any better as a few more days went by. He was still experiencing sharp pains breathing and also had a sharp pain in his back. When the pain did not subside after a few more days, he asked the Red Sox for an MRI exam.
"I was told exactly we aren't going to MRI a bruise. Those were the exact words: 'We aren't going to MRI a bruise.' OK, that's all right. I'm going to tough it out and keep going."
The pain still did not go away and he had trouble sleeping and getting out of bed.
"You're doing everything you can to play," he said.
Ellsbury then called his agent, Scott Boras, who in turn contacted the organization; the next day he received an MRI.
"Before the MRI I specifically asked for a front and back MRI," he said. "That's where the pain was, front and back. That's important to remember that. Front and back, that's what I asked for. Within minutes of the results, they saw four broken ribs in the front. When I heard that, it was OK, it made sense because that's where I had been feeling it. It was unfortunate that I had to miss a little more time."
After he found out he had fractured his ribs, Ellsbury rested and his chest began to feel a bit better. But he was still experiencing pain in his back.
"I was being told that it's just part of the healing process and there's probably something between the ribs being banged up, and you're going to feel that pain in the back," he said. "I was getting close to a rehab start and the four broken ribs are feeling a little bit better. The back, I was still feeling it.
"The Red Sox and I decide it's time for me to get a rehab start. I'm going to go out there and I'm at a point where I can help the team win. I understand that. The ribs are healing and the only way I can reinjure the four ribs in front is if I had a similar impact like I did. So I'm pretty confident, but I'm still having pain in the back, so I'm like that's just something I have to play with."
Ellsbury played in three rehab games and felt good.
"My back was still barking, but I'm understanding that it's a bruise," he said.
Ellsbury was activated from the DL on May 22 in Philadelphia and made a diving catch in the outfield during that game.
"I landed awkwardly, made the catch and popped right back up and thought, 'Wow, it felt good.' Front ribs felt pretty good, but I was still having the same pain in the back," Ellsbury said.
His symptoms did not change and the team headed to Tampa after its series against the Phillies. Ellsbury played two games against the Rays and the pain in his back continued.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona decided to give him a day off, but Ellsbury wanted to make it clear that he did not ask for it. He thought his timing at the plate was off, so he spent some time in the batting cage with hitting coach Dave Magadan. During that extra BP work, Ellsbury said he felt a tremendous pain in his lat area.
He had another MRI taken in the front and on the side.
"The MRI basically comes up that they didn't see anything, but I'm placed on the DL," he said. "Obviously, it's something I didn't want to have happen. I wanted to play. I wanted to be part of the team. I love playing. It was tough for me to go back on the DL. I definitely didn't want that to happen."
After a few weeks, Ellsbury said, the symptoms got worse.
"I'm like, 'What the heck?' Now my breathing starts to affect me again. The pain is moving around," he said. "The Red Sox and I agree -- they were on board with this -- that I should go see [orthopedist] Dr. [Lewis] Yocum in California."
Ellsbury was examined and had another MRI taken of his front and back. The results showed his front ribs were healing. But Yocum discovered a broken rib and indicated the injury was suffered in the collision with Beltre.
"As a result of me playing with the broken ribs -- through all the rehab starts, I had the broken rib, and all the games I played in the big leagues, I had the broken rib -- the MRI also showed I'd strained my lat."
Ellsbury said the reason he suffered the lat injury was because he was compensating for the discomfort of playing with the broken rib. He said he also had inflamed nerves surrounding the rib.
"That was a new finding," Ellsbury said. "The doctors that I saw previously, I'd gotten the different opinions and the back was never MRI'ed. To my understanding, it had been. Now we need to make a decision with the Red Sox where I'm going to rehab this. The Red Sox agreed, they were in favor, they were happy that I was going to go to API and rehab my lat, my nerve and my rib."
Ellsbury said the reason he and Boras thought it best to rehab in Arizona was because he did not want to be a "distraction" to the team.
"That's the last thing I wanted. I didn't want to be a distraction to the team," he said. "My teammates know that I'm here supporting them. I work hard. I lay it on the line."
The Red Sox received daily reports from API, and Ellsbury said he was in contact with his teammates during his hiatus.
"Obviously you want to be with your teammates. You're here with your teammates more than you're with your family. You care about your teammates, not just in a baseball sense, but from a personal standpoint. With all the injuries I would call the guys and see how they were doing and see where their heads are at and rooting them on. Obviously I wasn't with them, but I was their biggest fan from afar. I'm very happy, despite the injuries we've had, that we're still in it."
Teammate Kevin Youkilis recently said he would have liked to have had Ellsbury stay with the team as other injured players have. When asked for reaction to Youkilis' comments, Ellsbury said he had the blessing of the Red Sox to rehab at API.
"Obviously in the best-case scenario, yeah, I would like to be with the team, but for me to get better, the Red Sox thought it would be best if I went out to Arizona," Ellsbury said. "I talked to them today and they said, 'Yeah, we back you 100 percent. That's what we thought was best for you and you getting back playing and being productive.' "
While Ellsbury is with the team in Toronto, he will hit, run and throw before heading to the club's spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., to continue his rehab during the All-Star break.
"I want to get more work in," he said. "I don't want to get stagnant. I want to get some work in and keep progressing. I feel very good right now."
Once Ellsbury is deemed ready, he'll play in a few minor league rehab games before he's activated.
"It's good to see him," Francona said.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.
Jacoby Ellsbury spoke at length Saturday, detailing the timeline of his rib injury and rehab.