Ellsbury returns; Melancon showing improvement

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Ellsbury returns; Melancon showing improvement

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.''

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

The Red Sox signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract bn August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.

That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis hit three-run homers and left-hander Brian Johnson started and pitched two scoreless innings to help the Red Sox win their spring training opener, 9-6, over Northeastern University on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Johnson, who made one spot start in his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2015 but then was derailed by injuries and anxiety issues last season, struck out three and walked one Thursday. He's expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 5-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts in 2016.

Moreland, the left-handed hitting first baseman signed to a one-year deal after spending his first seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, and Travis, a right-handed hitting first base prospect coming back from knee surgery last season, each hit three-run homers in a six-run third inning.

Pablo Sandoval, attempting to reclaim the third-base job after missing nearly all of last season after surgery on his left shoulder, went 1-for-2 with a double. 

The Red Sox open Grapefruit League play Friday afternoon when they host the New York Mets at JetBlue Park.