BOSTON — The right thing for a player to do, if a player has concussion-like symptoms, is report them immediately. For the player’s own health.
Red Sox manager John Farrell on Saturday afternoon was not critical of Josh Rutledge’s apparent choice to keep the symptoms to himself. Rather, he praised Rutledge’s competitive spirit.
Farrell was backing up his player, which is his job — to an extent. Concussions, minor as they can sometimes seem, are not the arena where a major league manager should deliver anything but a uniform message to the public: tell someone what you’re feeling.
Rutledge was in Friday’s lineup before he was scratched late because of what was announced as left hip soreness. On Saturday, the Red Sox announced he went to the seven-day disabled list with a concussion that is believed to have occurred May 29 in Chicago, almost a month ago.
“There was a play, when Pedey [Dustin Pedroia] came out of the game on Memorial Day in Chicago, Rut replaced him,” Farrell said. “There was a diving play that he made in center field and that’s the one event that he can pinpoint to that might have been the cause for it. So while he was dealing with some symptoms along the way, felt like he was going to be able to manage them but they really manifested themselves yesterday to the point where he had to say something.
“The lack of focus, the loss of spin on certain pitches while he was hitting, that became more evident. And then when he went through the ImPACT [Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test] and the assessment, there were a number of fields that they test for that indicates he’s got a concussion.”
Asked if in a perfect world, Rutledge would have said something about the concussion symptoms right away, Farrell said Rutledge would have done so within a couple days.
“But again, the fact that he can’t — I mean, he pinpoints that one event,” Farrell said. “But feeling like he may get past those. I mean, perfect world is a player who [does] as he did. He’s trying to compete and give you everything he has. But at the same time, particularly with a concussion, we don’t know anything until a player indicates. So I can’t fault him for wanting to stay on the field.”
What manager wouldn’t love a player who wants to stay on the field? But that can’t be the bottom-line message when it comes to head injuries.
Farrell was asked if the amount of time between when the concussion was believed to be suffered and the diagnosis meant there was a hole in baseball’s concussion protocol.
“No. There isn’t,” Farrell said. “This is very much a two-way street. When a player doesn’t want to succumb to some of the symptoms at the time he was dealing with — and I fully respect Rut for taking the approach he did. Here’s a guy that’s dealt with some injuries along the way. Didn’t want to make excuses for the slump that he might have been in offensively. But it grew to the point where he couldn’t continue on.”
The point is to never let it grow in the first place. From May 30 on, Rutledge hit .169 with 22 strikeouts and four walks spanning 16 starts and 19 games.
Rutledge, a Rule 5 pick for whom playing time is extra valuable, won’t be the last player to attempt to play through a concussion. He has a responsibility to speak up. Publicly, Farrell did not hammer home that message Saturday.