Farrell: Ellsbury hasn't 'lost the knack to steal bases'

Farrell: Ellsbury hasn't 'lost the knack to steal bases'
March 23, 2013, 11:00 am
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(USA Today Sports Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- John Farrell has said he wishes to have the Red Sox be an aggressive team on the bases this season -- a directive that includes going from first-to-third and putting pressure on the opponent, in addition to stealing some bases -- but with a week to go in Florida, the team's top base stealer has yet to even attempt a stolen base.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who set a franchise record with 70 steals in 2009, hasn't run once in 14 Grapefruit League games.

"No, there's a particular reason,'' said manager John Farrell. "I don't know that it's unusual. I know that there's been times when we've talked about some things. We want to make sure we get out of here healthy first. We've had some opportunities to run and we've basically shut them down from not running.''

Farrell added that there weren't any physical issues precluding Ellsbury from running or stealing bases and said he wasn't worried that his leadoff hitter hadn't attempted a steal..

"I think he's a pretty adept base stealer,'' he said, "and I don't think he's lost the knack to steal bases or the reads on given pitchers. I'm confident he still has base-stealing capability.''

Last season, when he missed most of the first half of the year with a separated shoulder, Ellsbury swiped just 14 bases in 17 attempts. That figure represents a dramatic reduction in steals over previous seasons. Ellsbury stole 39 in 2011, his breakout season. He had 70 in 2009 and 50 the year before that.

"He wasn't the guy (in 2012) that stole 70 a couple of years ago,'' said Farrell, "but that is strongly being encouraged - not the number, but the approach.''

Farrell said he expects both Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia to be base stealing threats at the top of the lineup and that all three will be encouraged to run.

Victorino stole 39 bases last year and, measured by efficiency, has been on the game's best baserunners in recent years. Since 2010, Victorino has averaged nearly 31 steals a season, but has been caught just 15 times total.

Pedroia, meanwhile, has 20 or more steals in his last four healthy seasons, and like Victorino, seldom gets thrown out. In his last two seasons, he's stole 46 times and been caught just 14 times.

"(I'd like to see Pedro) Ciriaco, too, when he's healthy and back on the field,'' said Farrell. "And there are also guys of average running speed and that's where the first-to-third mentality will kick in more so that just the straight steal attempts.'