Ellsbury open to sliding down batting order

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Ellsbury open to sliding down batting order

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jacoby Ellsbury had 660 at-bats in 2011, his breakout season, and all but 31 of those came in the leadoff spot.

Whether Ellsbury remains in the leadoff position in 2012, however, is open to some debate. After belting 32 homers and compiling a. 552 slugging percentage, there's some thought in the organization that Ellsbury might better serve the team hitting third while, say, Carl Crawford takes over the top spot in the lineup.

That would give Crawford the chance to be more aggressive on the bases and take full advantage of his speed. Ellsbury, meanwhile, showed last year that he can be a valuable run producer and, hitting third, could now do so with more runners on base and in scoring position.

"There's not many who have that same package (of skills)," said Valentine. "If he's not totally unique, he's in a real small sample. He's just a joy."

Valentine believes Ellsbury could succeed in the No. 3 spot and has already spoken to the outfielder -- at least informally -- to sound him out on a potential change.

"I think he could," said Valentine. "He just hasn't, which makes it a little bit of a mental challenge."

"I guess, for me, I would keep my approach," said Ellsbury, "(keep) everything the same. And I've told (Valentine) whatever he thinks the team needs -- if it's better for me to hit down in the order or stay at leadoff -- I'm going to do whatever he feels best to get us the most wins. So if he thinks me staying at the top of the order is the best thing for the time... I'm not sure. I haven't talked about how he plans on working spring training. If he looks at mixing it up a little bit, seeing how different lineups look.

"But as far as right now, I'm just trying to get my timing, trying to get everything like that. But I'm sure that here in a couple of weeks I could probably have a better answer for you."

Grapefruit League games don't begin until March 4, and from there, Valentine will likely be experimenting with differing batting orders, depending on availability of veteran players on long road trips and other concessions to the spring schedule.

Toward the end of March, he'll probably settle in on what he'd like to do with the lineup, though he has cautioned several times that, in some past springs, the lineup he used on Opening Day was not one he used even once during spring training.

"I think that's going to be an interesting situation that will probably evolve this spring into the season," said Valentine. "The last thing in the world you want to create is confusion or doubt -- any of those things. Right now, (Ellsbury) seems to be open and Dustin (Pedroia) was in the office the other day and he seems to be free and open and Carl is ready to have a conversation.

"There's a lot of stuff going on."

Ellsbury's 2011 season, for which he was second in A.L. MVP voting, has given him the confidence that he can thrive almost anywhere. No longer the slashing and running player he was in his first few seasons, his improved strength and ability to drive the ball has made him more well-rounded.

"I've always taken or tried to be a complete player," he said, "tried to do everything. So yeah, for everything to come together, I guess you could say last year was something I was always working on. I just try to be a complete player and that's what I take pride in."

Pedroia has said that he doesn't like leading off, which would seem to take him out of the mix. Earlier in his career, Crawford had the same thoughts, though last year, he said hitting first wouldn't be an issue.

"It's hard for me to say at this point," said Ellsbury. "I haven't hit third on this team before. So I don't know how we'd go about mixing the lineup and that sort of thing. Certain guys feel comfortable with hitting certain positions. I've hit in different areas in the lineup and it hasn't really bothered me. I feel comfortable, but at the same time I think that time will tell. I really don't have an opinion either way at this moment."

Bruins don't extend qualifying offer to Joe Morrow

Bruins don't extend qualifying offer to Joe Morrow

With free agency just around the corner, the Bruins have officially cut ties with former first-round pick and last bastion of the Tyler Seguin trade, Joe Morrow.

The 24-year-old Edmonton native arrived in Boston along with Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser in exchange for Seguin when he was shipped to Dallas, and now all of those players have moved on from Boston as well. Boston does still carry Jimmy Hayes on their roster, a player traded from Florida in exchange for Smith, as a last remnant of the Seguin deal, but it isn't expected to be too long before Hayes moves on from Boston as well.  

The B’s announced on Monday afternoon that they hadn’t extended a qualifying offer to Morrow, as well as P-Bruins power forward Colton Hargrove, as a restricted free agent, and that both B’s youngsters were now free to sign with any of the 30 NHL teams as free agents.

The Bruins extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents in Noel Acciari, Linus Arnesson, Austin Czarnik, Zane McIntyre, David Pastrnak, Tim Schaller, Ryan Spooner and Malcolm Subban, and will retain the associated team rights with all of those players. Negotiations are ongoing between the Bruins and Pastrnak continue over a long term deal that would put him in the same $6 million plus per season level as teammate Brad Marchand, but one source with knowledge of the negotiations indicated it’s “not close” to being a done deal.

Some RFA’s like Spooner and Subban might not necessarily fit into the long term plan for the Black and Gold, but they need to maintain their rights if they hope to trade them as valued assets down the line.

Morrow never put together the talent that made him a former first-round pick while he was in Boston, and totaled just one assist in 17 games for the B’s before playing well in five playoff games after getting pushed into duty due to injuries. In all Morrow finished with two goals and nine points along with a minus-8 rating in 65 games over three seasons in Boston, but could never string together an extended run of consistent play at the NHL level.

With the Bruins in the market to bring on another left-shot defenseman into the Boston fold this summer, it was pretty clear that the time had come to move on from Morrow while allowing him to potentially develop as an NHL D-man elsewhere. 

Tom Brady claims No. 1 spot on NFL's top 100 list

Tom Brady claims No. 1 spot on NFL's top 100 list

The NFL Network revealed the final 10 players on its annual Top 100 list Monday night and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished in the No. 1 spot.

On NFL.com, the Top 100 list is described as the answer to the question, "Who are the top 100 players in the NFL today?" If that's the criteria -- and not simply performance in 2016 -- then Watt's complaint actually doesn't hold much water. If he's healthy, no one would argue that he's one of the best 35 players "in the NFL today."

Several Patriots players made the cut on this year's list: Rob Gronkowski (No. 23), LeGarrette Blount (No. 80), Julian Edelman (No. 71), Dont'a Hightower (No. 94) and Malcolm Butler (No. 99). 

Brady was also voted in as the No. 1 player back in 2011.