Ellsbury becoming a leader in his comeback year

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Ellsbury becoming a leader in his comeback year

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
Early in spring training, before the regular season even began, a major league talent evaluator offered the unsolicited prediction that Jacoby Ellsbury would be the Comeback Player of the Year.

After appearing in just 18 games last season because of fractured ribs -- batting .192 with just four extra-base hits, all doubles, and seven stolen bases -- in a season that was difficult both on and off the field for him, Ellsbury has done nothing to prove that impartial prognosticator wrong.

He has been among the league leaders for most of the season in several offensive categories, including batting average (now at .316), runs scored (70), hits (123), doubles (26), and stolen bases (28). He hit his 14th and 15th home runs of the season Wednesday afternoon in Baltimore, leaving him just five behind his career total entering this season. His .509 slugging percentage is third on the team, behind only Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz.

Hes a year older, more mature, has a better understanding of the expectations on him, said Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale. I dont know if it's bad for me to say this because he probably needs to say this himself, but coming back from last year, he might have a little fire.

Just dont ask Ellsbury, the Sox first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2005 draft out of Oregon State, if he has anything to prove. Hes not interested in the topic. He just wants to play. Others, though, are not as hesitant to talk about the season Ellsbury -- who has appeared in 95 of the teams 96 games -- is having. He was named to the American League All-Star team, voted in by the players, for the first time in his career.

When you see it from a different perspective, you learn some things, said Hale. I have sat down and talked to him about it. But hes an All-Star and its well deserved, too, because thats the bottom line.

The difference is noticeable at the plate and in the field.

You see a little bit more leadership in the outfield, Hale said, Im happy to see him do that, because when he broke in Coco Crisp was here in Ellsburys debut season of 2007 and rookie season of 2008. They shared time. He moved around. Its tough. At times when he was playing there was Manny Ramirez on one side and J.D. Drew on the other. The relationship he formed with J.D. has progressed to where they have very good communication, and youve seen him performing with the other left fielders, Jason Bay, Carl Crawford. So thats maturing and becoming the captain out there. Its just not anointed to you. You say it fundamentally that youre the captain because youve got more ground to cover. But being the true leader out there in the outfield kind of comes in with time. I see it progressing.

Along with his outfield leadership, Ellsburys outfield skills are progressing. The knock against him had been his arm. But, his five outfield assists so far this season, more than any other season, are tied for fourth in the league.

Hes applied the things he worked on in the offseason to the game, Hale said. You work on leverage. You work on balance. You work on where your feet are. Working on your arm, games situations dictate maybe how aggressively you throw the ball -- different distances, if theres a relay man, a right-center guy, left-center guy, compared to a cut-off man thats in the middle of the infield, going toward home, going toward third base. And his arm has gotten stronger.

He wants to be the guy that youve got to respect that. His speed can help. He can get to a ball quicker, so his throws can become shorter. One of the things we talked about, and I think its five out of six of not allowing that potential stolen base guy to advance on a ball thats thrown or kicked off, not to let him get to third base. So hes doing some things that dont show up in the books. But its a compliment from his teammates, coaches.

While Ellsbury has been among the league leaders in stolen bases all season, he is off the pace of his AL-best 50 in 2008 and 70 in the 2009. That doesnt matter, though, with Adrian Gonzalez hitting behind him leading the league in RBI. And, just the threat of Ellsbury stealing can impact the opponents defense.

Consciously hes been very good at his all-around game, Hale said. I tip my hat to him. Hes worked himself into being an All-Star.

And proving something?

Theres a maturity factor but there is nothing to prove, Hale said. Its the challenge of playing this game at a high level and its the challenge of being your best. Hes an All-Star. Thats a good foundation for him to keep building his career, not just this year but the years to come.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Mookie Betts' injury likely just a short-term issue

Mookie Betts' injury likely just a short-term issue

BOSTON -- After leaving Friday night’s game with right knee soreness, structural damage has been ruled out regarding Mookie Betts, but he could still be out for a bit.

Testing was done on Betts’ knee, removing any doubt of a deeper issue, revealing it was just build-up of fluid, causing swelling in his knee.

“Day-to-day is the status. It may take a couple for him before he’s back to us.” John Farrell said. “Everything points to this being a short-term situation.”

Betts explained that his condition had improved from Friday night, but -- much like Farrell -- doesn’t know how quickly he can bounce back. He wouldn’t make a definitive statement on whether or not he’d be available Sunday.

“It feels pretty good now,” Betts said. “We’re going to do some treatment on it, make sure everything is good and hopefully get back out there.”

Betts joins the list of pivotal players unavailable in Saturday’s game, including Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara who are both on the DL.

Farrell couldn’t commit to a timetable for when he expects Uehara should be back, but hopes he’ll be available during the regular season.

“We’re hopeful of that,” Farrell said when asked if he thought Uehara would be back before the postseason. “There’s no number of day’s that says Koji’s going to put a ball back in his hand . . . To give you a time frame, it’s too early to tell.”

Kimbrel, on the other hand, has bounced back well, and is expected to throw his first bullpen Sunday or Monday. The hope is that he’ll throw twice off the mound before the trip to the West, which would set him up for a simulated game.

“We need to get some PFP involved -- just some change in direction, fielding the position,” Farrell said on Kimbrel. “But in terms of amount of time missed, and that fact that he’s able to as get aggressive right now in long toss. I would think it would be on the shorter end of appearances if it’s even more than one. He feels very good. If he wasn’t making the ultimate decision medically [he’d] probably say ‘Give me the ball tonight.’ That’s how good he feels -- that’s encouraging.”

 

Saturday's Red Sox-Twins lineups: Betts out with knee soreness

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Saturday's Red Sox-Twins lineups: Betts out with knee soreness

Mookie Betts is out of the lineup Saturday after leaving the game Friday night with knee soreness and Brock Holt moves into the leadoff spot for the Red Sox in Game 3 of their four-game series with the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park.

Manager John Farrell said Betts is day-to-day after the right fielder left the Red Sox' 2-1 loss in the fifth inning with pain in his right knee. There is swelling, but an MRI showed no structural damage.Michael Martinez will start in right on Saturday night. Betts had started in 93 of Boston's 94 games this season. 

Aaron Hill gets the start at third base for the Red Sox in place of Travis Shaw.  

Left-hander David Price (9-7, 4.36 ERA) makes his second start of the second half for the Red Sox. Price took the loss in a 3-1 defeat against the Yankees on Sunday night, allowing 11 hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innnigs. 

Right-hander Ricky Nolasco (4-8, 5.02) is on the mound for the Twins.

The lineups:

TWINS
Eduardo Nunez SS
Robbie Grossman DH
Miguel Sano 3B
Brian Dozier 2B
Max Kepler RF
Kennys Vargas 1B
Eddie Rosario LF
Kurt Suzuki C
---
Ricky Nolasco RHP

RED SOX
Brock Holt LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Aaron Hill 3B
Sandy Leon C
Michael Martinez RF
---
David Price LHP

Farrell: Betts ‘day to day’ with sore knee

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Farrell: Betts ‘day to day’ with sore knee

BOSTON — Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts left the game against the Minnesota Twins in the fifth inning on Friday night with soreness in his right knee.

Manager John Farrell said after game that Betts' had recently had "some treatment" for the knee and it has been something the team has monitored since the All-Star break. The Red Sox announced after Betts left the game that he was considered day-to-day. 

Betts, who led off the game with a home run for the second consecutive night, was replaced in right field by Michael Martinez in the top of the fifth. 

Betts, an All-Star Game starter, leads the Red Sox with 127 hits and is second on the team with 20 home runs and 63 RBI.

Associated Press material included in this story.