Haggerty: Ellsbury an MVP candidate

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Haggerty: Ellsbury an MVP candidate

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Jacoby Ellsbury as a candidate for American League MVP?

It might seem a little crazy for a guy that had 20 career home runs headed into this season and played a grand total of 18 games last year for Boston, but take a gander at the unfiltered numbers that the talented centerfielder is putting together.

Ellsbury isnt a full-fledged candidate quite yet, but hes beginning to make his opening MVP arguments in the dog days of summer, which tend to separate the contenders from the pretenders.

The fleet-footed centerfielder added a few more lines to his Im Pretty Awesome resume on Saturday night with a modest two-run single up the middle in the seventh inning a base knock that only accounted for the tying and go-ahead runs in a 3-1 come-from-behind victory over the Mariners at Fenway Park.

Two outs and two strikes were no problem for Ellsbury in that game-turning at-bat against the Ms, and it hasnt been an issue all season. The centerfielder is hitting .271 in all two-strike counts this season, and has shown the pluck to fight off pitchers' counts like he couldnt in seasons past.

Hes been good in all situations, but hes really pretty special right now, said Terry Francona. Hes got the guy behind him in Pedroia that you know they dont want to face. Its exciting to watch. I just think hes getting more comfortable as a hitter deep into the count.

Its a big reason hes a better hitter. Most good hitters, the more pitches they see they get better. They get more dangerous. But you have to feel good about yourself to do that.

He also very nearly dazzled the Fenway crowd with a sliding catch to lead off the ninth inning, protecting the two-run lead before the ball squirted out of his glove, but hell have to save the Superman role for another night apparently. It wasnt so much about the defense for Ellsbury on this night as much as it was about the clutch situations and the run production a pair of things that practically scream out MVP.

Ellsbury has jacked seven home runs and driven in 17 runs during a prolific month of July, and his .515 slugging percentage on the season puts him well ahead of Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, Justin Upton and a whole host of sluggers with overpowering big league reputations.

None of them are cobbling together the kind of campaign that Ellsbury is as he continues to sit in the middle of everything that the Red Sox are accomplishing while building their lead in the AL East. It would appear the pressure, the hurt and the criticism aimed at the athletically gifted 27-year-old during last years struggles with fractured ribs have transformed Ellsbury into a true baseball diamond.

Everybody around the Red Sox noticed when the centerfielder showed up with determination and a different kind of confidence this spring, and perhaps even a burning desire to prove a few people wrong. That little spark of emotion that Ellsbury let escape with a point skyward and multiple claps after his two-run single in the seventh was the last ingredient needed to inch him toward baseball greatness.

Ive always been pushing him because you know how good that he could be. You could always see the gifts that he has that could make him a really special player, said David Ortiz. Hes been on his game all season, man. You could see that when he came into spring training with a different approach. Hes played that way all this year, and its been great to see. We all knew that was in there.

Armed with all those little pieces of motivation Ellsbury has turned in a .319 batting average good for sixth in the AL along with the third-most runs scored in the American League behind only Curtis Granderson and Jose Bautista.

Ellsbury is on pace for 121 runs scored, 210 hits, 26 home runs and 94 RBI out of the leadoff position to go along with 46 stolen bases and a .377 on base percentage a season that some probably envisioned the electric outfielder producing at his highest point as he rocketed through the Sox' minor league system.

Its not a full American League MVP body of work to be sure, and hell still have to surpass the eye-popping numbers tossed on the board by teammate Adrian Gonzalez. But Ellsbury should start forcing his way into the conversation, and nobody could have foreseen that after only playing 18 games last year.

In the words of teammate Josh Beckett, Ellsbury has figured it out and its been pretty enjoyable to watch.

Its really fun to watch. Ive been here from the very beginning to kind of watch how things have gone for Ellsbury, and it's fun to watch a guy thats figuring it out, said Beckett. Im not saying itll be smooth sailing for the rest of his career and I dont know if maturing is the right word. But hes figuring things out and hes been great for our team all season because of it.

Ellsbury for MVP. There are no bumper stickers or online campaigns for it quite yet on the Sons of Sam Horn message boards, but those things should start popping any day now for the legit candidate in his career year.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia is no stranger to injuries. That's a big reason why he's no longer a stranger to the sometimes peculiar practices of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

In an interview on WEEI's "Bradfo Show," Pedroia told Rob Bradford that he's been taking cues from the five-time Super Bowl-winning QB to help extend his playing career and make his body healthier and more durable.

“I understand what he does and know what he does. I think it’s awesome,” Pedroia told Bradford. “There’s a reason why he’s successful at his age (39), and he looks better now than he did when he first came to the league. You have to be smarter as you get older and learn different styles -- the way to train and the way you take care of your body to be able to perform and stay on the field. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing. He’s definitely got that figured out.”

Pedroia, of course, played the entire 2013 World Series-winning season with a torn ligament in his thumb. He's battled through various other lower body and hand injuries over the past few seasons, as well. But in 2016, he had his best season in recent memory, posting his highest OPS since 2011, as WEEI notes.

Part of that is with his own take on the Brady approach -- which focuses more on pliability and resistance training than extensive, heavy weight lifting -- and a healthier overall lifestyle, something Brady is notoriously infamous for having.

"There’s tons of ways to take care of your body. It’s not just get in the weight room and throw weights around,” Pedroia explained. “As you get older, the human body can’t take the pounding if you’re going in there and power lifting. When you’re younger, you can handle some of that. But as you get older, you got to be smarter. Sometimes less is more -- whether that’s weight or reps or whatever. You’ve just got to be smart. And eating wise, that’s a big part of recovery. If you put the right foods in your body, you’ll heal faster if you’re injured or recover faster. It’s like a car, man. Put bad gas in, bro. It’s not going to be the same as good gas.”

He hopes the approach can, at the very least, keep him moving for quite some time.

“I plan on living until I’m 100," he said. "So we’re not even halfway home."

Hanley Ramirez's shoulder already a concern for Red Sox heading into WBC

Hanley Ramirez's shoulder already a concern for Red Sox heading into WBC

Another year, another injury concern for Hanley Ramirez. This time, though, it's a bit more complicated.

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell told the media Monday that Ramirez hadn't played any first base during spring training yet due to discomfort in his right throwing shoulder.

“Well, we’re working through ramping up his throwing program,” Farrell said, via WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. “That has taken a little bit more time than anticipated coming in so we’ve got to kind of take that day to day how much we can increase the intensity with the throwing. He’s just working through some soreness with the throwing.”

As Bradford points out, Ramirez and the Red Sox went through the same process last year. Where it differs this time around is Ramirez's scheduled participation in the World Baseball Classic: He's expected to report to Team Domincan Republic on Friday, which means the Red Sox won't be monitoring his every move on the field (though the two training staffs will be communicating daily, also per Bradford).

Ramirez isn't the only first baseman on the roster, with the Cleveland Indians' Carlos Santana there as well. So will Ramirez be jumping into game action anytime soon?

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. They haven’t told me anything,” Ramirez told WEEI.com “I’m just going to go there and see.”