Ellsbury returns; Melancon showing improvement

Ellsbury returns; Melancon showing improvement
September 30, 2012, 1:00 am
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After a week on the shelf, Jacoby Ellsbury returned to the lineup following an undisclosed injury.

Ellsbury instructed team officials that he didn't want the nature of his injury revealed to the media, but a major league source indicated that the outfielder had been suffering from a pulled lat muscle.

"Hopefully, he won't have any (soreness),'' said manager Bobby Valentine, "and he'll play the next few days and go home on a good note.''

Valentine said Ellsbury returned to the lineup "because he wanted to, and he's a good player and it's a pennant race that teams are in and we should put our best foot forward.''

Ellsbury missed almost the entire first half of the season with a more serious injury -- a separated shoulder. He's been healthy enough to play about half the season but hasn't put together anywhere close to the year he had last year, when he finished second in the A.L. MVP race.

Entering Saturday night, Ellsbury was hitting just .277 with four homers and 26 RBI. His on-base percentage was just .321 and his slugging percentage was a mere .382.

Valentine said in spring training that he thought Ellsbury should have been the MVP in 2011, but admitted Saturday that he didn't see the outfielder repeat that kind of play in 2012.

"I didn't see him play that way this year, no,'' acknowledged Valentine. "He never quite hit his stride this year. I've had a lot of conversations with the coaching staff about it and a few with Jacoby about it. I don't know...he hasn't had the feel, from what I gather.''

Reliever Mark Melancon got off to a poor start this season and was demoted to Triple A within the first two weeks. He spent several months in Pawtucket, but even after being recalled, couldn't seem to establish himself as a pitcher who could be trusted in the Red Sox' bullpen.

But of late, Melancon has been much better. In his seven September outings, he has a 1.08 ERA, having allowed just one earned run this month while striking out 12 in the last 8 13 innings.

In fact, since Aug. 1, he's held opposing hitters to a .220 batting average while averaging 24 strikeouts in 21 13 innings.

"His curveball is getting swings and misses,'' said Valentine, "and he's getting called strikes. I believe that pitch has improved with arm speed and deception. His ability to work both sides of the plate effectively in his last five or six outings has really made the difference.

"(Early in the season) he got hit early in the count and maybe got behind and stayed away from a lot of righthanded hitters. But he's throwing the ball well now and that's important.''