BOSTON -- Hopes that Carl Crawford's experience with the Boston Red Sox would take an immediate turn for the better after a disappointing first season were dashed with the announcement by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington on Tuesday that the left fielder underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist.
"Carl will be our everyday left fielder for the bulk of the 2012 season," Cherington said. "We're not ruling out Opening Day, but we're not going to put a timeline on it. Carl will be ready exactly when he's ready. There's no one who works harder than Carl.
"We're confident he'll be back and playing soon. We just don't know when."
The decision to have surgery, Cherington said, was made after Crawford reported soreness in his wrist when he began ramping up his offseason hitting routine around the first of the year. The surgery, performed in Scottsdale, Ariz., by Dr. Donald Sheridan on Tuesday after Crawford underwent an MRI, involved a debridement of the wrist, which is defined as the removal of damaged tissue from the impacted area. It is generally performed in cases where a patient shows signs of early arthritis.
"We are confident he will recover from it and go into the 2012 season with a fresh mind and confidence that his wrist is feeling good," Cherington said, adding that Darnell McDonald and Mike Aviles are expected to fill in until Crawford is available. "We feel like we have some options even if Carl's not ready on Opening Day."
Crawford has experienced soreness in the wrist in the past, according to Cherington, including at the end of the 2011 season, though the decision was made at the time that he go through his usual offseason routine. That changed, Cherington said, when Crawford reported continued soreness.
Crawford first experienced wrist problems in the big leagues as far back as 2005, but he had not missed any time because of the wrist since 2007, when he was in training camp with the Tampa Bay Rays.
"We think this time of the year's a lot better than the end of spring training," Cherington said. "He's got a chance to do a lot of work and recover and be active for us for the majority of the season. Carl's a really tough guy, and this is something that's bothered him periodically in the past, including in 2011."
This was only the second surgery of his major league career. In 2008, he had surgery to repair the tendon in the middle finger of his right hand.
Cherington said that Crawford is expected to resume baseball activity in spring training, but said the team would not place a timetable on his return, other than to say they expect him back "early in the season."
Crawford struggled in his first season in Boston after signing a seven-year, $142 million contract last offseason. He hit a career-low .255 with 11 homers, 56 RBIs and just 18 stolen bases.
Cherington also said on Tuesday that the team was likely to have another conversation with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who is third on the franchise's all-time win list with 186, six behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens. Cherington said he wanted to treat both Wakefield, the longest-tenured member of the team, and catcher Jason Varitek with respect while also being honest with them about their chances to make the roster.
Cherington said right-hander Vicente Padilla is being considered as a starter but could move to the bullpen if the team needs him more there.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.