Nomar expected to be out three weeks

Updated: April 1, 2004, 12:45 AM ET news services

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox will play some of their toughest games this season without Nomar Garciaparra.

Boston's star shortstop will start the year on the disabled list because of an injured right Achilles tendon and is expected to be out at least three weeks.

Nomar Garciaparra

That means the Red Sox will be missing two key regulars during a pivotal period in which they play the rival Yankees seven times by April 25. Right fielder Trot Nixon is expected to be sidelined until early May with a lower back problem.

Doctors said there is no structural damage to Garciaparra's inflamed tendon and almost no risk of this becoming a problem that will trouble him beyond a few weeks. He will rest for the next three weeks, but can resume upper-body workouts in seven days.

After three weeks, when it is anticipated the swelling in the foot will go down, Garciaparra will go on a minor league rehabilitation assignment before joining the Red Sox. He needed only two days on a rehab assignment while recovering from a wrist injury in 2001.

Garciaparra was examined Wednesday in Fort Myers by Mark Slovenkai, an ankle and foot specialist from New England Baptist Hospital. Garciaparra will fly to Boston on Thursday to begin his treatment program.

"I don't like missing more time than I anticipated, but the good thing is we know we have a structured program to be able to talk to all the doctors and get everyone on the same page," Garciaparra said. "My body will tell me when I'm ready. Once that happens it shouldn't take me long to get back in the lineup."

The Red Sox also placed outfielder Trot Nixon and right-handers Byung-Hyun Kim and Reynaldo Garcia on the 15-day DL, released infielder Terry Shumpert and returned pitcher Frank Brooks to the Pittsburgh Pirates per Rule 5 guidelines.

Garciaparra, 30, was hit on the right foot by a ball during batting practice March 5 and has been limited to eight at-bats this spring. The force of the blow caused a bruise in the cartilage that protects the Achilles tendon which, in turn, aggravated the tendon.

Garciaparra has said there is no similarity between this injury and that wrist injury, which required surgery on Opening Day in 2001 and hampered him for the next two seasons.

He has not played since March 17, though he took about 20 swings in the batting cage and about 20 grounders at shortstop on Saturday.

Because Garciaparra is not expected to be out long, general manager Theo Epstein doesn't expect to make a deal to bring in a temporary replacement.

"It's never a good time to have guys hurt," Epstein said. "We're going to have to wait until they're 100 percent, but we're going to be OK."

The Red Sox attempted to move Garciaparra during the unsuccessful Alex Rodriguez trade negotiations with Texas in the offseason, but they didn't plan on having Garciaparra out for an extended stretch without a comparable talent in place.

"I'm disappointed for us and for him," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "The hope is that we have a good team surrounding him and we don't let it affect our wins and losses. But he's a very good player right in the middle of our lineup. So to say that we wouldn't miss him, we would be lying."

Francona will shuffle his lineup for Sunday's season opener at Baltimore by moving Pokey Reese from second base to shortstop, starting Mark Bellhorn at second and batting David Ortiz fourth.

Garciaparra hit .301 with 28 home runs and 105 RBI last season and has a .323 career average. The two-time AL batting champion is eligible to become a free agent after the season -- one reason why the Red Sox tried to trade for Rodriguez.

Nixon, who had career bests with a .306 batting average and 28 home runs in 134 games last year, has a mild disk herniation and is undergoing a rehabilitation program at the University of Miami Spine Institute.

Kim, a converted closer who was acquired from Arizona last season, went 9-10 with a 3.31 ERA in 56 appearances -- 12 starts -- in 2003. He has been out since March 10 with a strained pitching shoulder. Kim had 16 saves in 19 opportunities in 2003 and was fighting Bronson Arroyo for the No. 5 spot in Boston's rotation.

Garcia had bone chips removed from his right elbow on March 18. He made 17 appearances with Texas last season, allowing 18 runs and 19 hits in 18 innings.

Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.