Ellsbury leaving contract talks alone

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Ellsbury leaving contract talks alone

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Limited to just 74 games last season after suffering a right shoulder subluxation on April 13 against the Rays, Jacoby Ellsbury hit just .271 with four home runs, 26 RBI, a .313 on-base percentage, and .370 slugging percentage. The dismal performance was even more discouraging for the Red Sox coming on the heels of Ellsbury's 2011 campaign when he finished second in American League MVP voting.

But, Ellsbury is happy to report to camp fully healthy.

I feel great, Ellsbury said Thursday inside the Sox spring training clubhouse.

The biggest thing is I got a great off-season workout in. Pretty much did everything that I needed to do to prepare for this year. I feel great coming to spring training. There are no limitations or anything, just go out and play.

That's something Ellsbury has not always been able to do over the last three seasons. Limited by injuries, from 2010-12 he appeared in just 250 games, the equivalent of a little more than a season and a half. Its what Ellsbury is capable of doing when healthy that the Sox are counting on. In 2011, Ellsbury hit .321, with 32 home runs, 105 RBI, 119 runs scored, 39 stolen bases, a .376 OBP, and .552 SLG.

A healthy Jacoby Ellsbury is a darned good player, said manager John Farrell. One that two years ago set the tone for this team. The production was almost middle-of-the-order type of production but yet top of the order and can steal a base. The top of your order as they go, so goes the team, and to have him back healthy, weve all seen what hes capable of. So he looks great. The way he talks about how he feels, and all those issues, whether its been shoulder or rib cage, thats a thing of the past right now.

Whether it will be a thing of the long-term future for the Sox is unknown. Ellsbury, the Sox' first-round pick in 2005 out of Oregon State who turned 29 in August, is in his final year before free agency. And with Scott Boras as an agent, he is unlikely to reach an extension with the team before that. Ellsbury deflected all contract questions Thursday.

Last year, I kind of got hit with the same questions, Ellsbury said. I think its, Im focused just on playing, focused on helping the team win. And any questions about contracts or anything like that I think is best just to call my agent. Do it that way.

While he wouldnt talk about his contract, Ellsbury did say he enjoys playing in Boston.

I love the atmosphere, he said. Obviously the fans, therell be times in the middle of the season when youre worn down a little bit and you just step on that ball field and youre reenergized. So just the competitive atmosphere, you have to win and that's great for all of us, that environment. I think I thrive in that environment. I enjoy it. So thats why with the guys we brought in this year, a lot of them I work out with in the offseason or train with or have got to know thru out the years. I think we brought in a great bunch of guys.

Farrell doesnt see Ellsburys contract situation becoming a distraction. But, he hopes the prospect of a new deal could affect his center fielder.

Hopefully in a good way, Farrell said. I dont think that becomes a distraction for him. Hes a motivated player. Were not going to change things in terms of him becoming a pending free agent. I know hes focused on his daily work and getting back on the field and demonstrating what he can do.

Ellsbury is optimistic both he and the team can rebound from their dismal 2012 seasons.

Thats our mindset since I was drafted. Its all about winning here, he said. Thats the most important thing. I think we got a bunch of guys that want to win, have the same goals. Obviously its spring training, come together, and it should be exciting to see Opening Day.

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?