Red Sox hopeful Eduardo Nunez returns from knee injury by season's end

BOSTON -- Eduardo Nunez pointed to his right knee, smiled and spoke of how lucky he felt that the injury wasn't a few inches closer to his kneecap.

"If it was over here, it would be the rest of this year," Nunez said, "and most of next year."

As it is, the Boston Red Sox are holding their breath that Nunez will play again this season after an MRI exam revealed a sprained posterior cruciate ligament. Nunez, who has provided an undeniable spark to the offense since being acquired July 25 in a trade with the San Francisco Giants, was injured when he stumbled while sliding into second base last Saturday night.

Nunez will miss at least a week, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell, who said it's "too early to tell" exactly when the utility infielder will be ready to return. Nunez is hopeful he will be sidelined for little more than one week, but Farrell was unable to guarantee that Nunez will return before the end of the season.

"In talking with him, in seeing how he's moving around today compared to the two days following, there is improvement there," Farrell said. "But we have to kind of wait and see how this week plays out."

Nunez is batting .319 with an OPS of .885 in 37 games with the Red Sox. He has eight homers in 163 at-bats for Boston after going deep four times in 302 at-bats for the Giants.

The Red Sox used Nunez primarily at second base while Dustin Pedroia was on the disabled list last month. Since Pedroia returned, Nunez has spelled slumping Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and filled in at second base whenever Pedroia needs to rest his balky left knee.

Initially, the Red Sox hoped Nunez had merely bruised his knee. He didn't play Sunday, and after tightness and swelling persisted, he went for the MRI exam. Nunez is expected to be re-evaluated next Tuesday.

"It's nothing too serious," Nunez said. "Hopefully in a week we'll see how I'm feeling, how well my knee responds with treatment, and we'll see how it is."

Nunez added that "we try to push, but then at the same time, be safe, make sure I'm back healthy and I can help the team to win. I don't want to come back and without being able to run. That's my big tool, my speed. So we'll try to be safe."