Ellsbury hasn't got time for the pain


Ellsbury hasn't got time for the pain

By Sean McAdam

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's early yet, but a common theme has definitely emerged in the first week of spring training: Don't look back.

John Lackey sounded it first. Then, Josh Beckett. And Wednesday morning, within an hour of checking into Red Sox training camp, Jacoby Ellsbury did, too.

It was only natural, of course, that the outfielder's lost -- and at times, controversial -- 2010 would be asked about. Ellsbury missed all but 17 games with a number of broken ribs, and teammates grumbled privately about his extended absence. And in one notable case, Kevin Youkilis publicly questioned Ellsbury's dedication to rehab the injury in Arizona rather than with the team.

Ellsbury was far from nostalgic about last season. In fact, perhaps predicitably, he did everything he could to avoid talk of the injury and the surrounding white noise it set off.

Asked about his health and when he got cleared to resume full offseason baseball activity, Ellsbury was vague with his responses, saying he "wasn't even sure of the exact date, but it's been a while now."

"It feels good to put 2010 behind me," he said, "and look forward to 2011."

Asked how frustrating the season was, Ellsbury had a ready response: "I've already put that behind me. I can't really change last year. But I'm definitely excited for 2011."

When asked when he was finally fully pain-free -- in his ribs and in his back -- Ellsbury was, again, somewhat evasive.

"I'm not sure exactly," he said. "All I know is that I feel good now . . . It's hard to say. But I've been healthy for a while now."

Ellsbury was asked about some of the criticism he received -- in the media and from others.

"I've put that in the past," he said. "Like I said, I'm moving forward and I'm excited about 2011."

Was the criticism unfair?

"Moving on . . . moving on," said Ellsbury with a smile. "You know, 2011."

And finally, he was asked if he felt some a connection with Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who was roundly criticized for not being tough enough after coming out of a playoff game with a knee injury.

"No real comments on that, either," he said. "I'm going to sound like a broken recorder."

He professed to be unconcerned about where he would hit in the batting order -- "That's up to Tito. I just want to help the team, wherever I fall in that order."

Ellsbury revealed that during the offseason he worked on "a lot of core stability and letting the ribs heal."

Recounting his 2010 season and what he learned from the experience, Ellsbury said: "I definitely grew. But I'm definitely not looking at the past. I can't change anything that happened. I'm definitely excited for 2011. Every spring training is a fresh start for everybody."

After playing just 17 games since October of 2009, Ellsbury will have to adjust to the rhythms of the game again. But he's confident that won't take long.

"The way I play," he said, "and being an athlete, you can transition back into it fairly quick. I'll definitely be 100 percent by Opening Day."

A big test will come the first time Ellsbury, in-game, finds himself sliding head-first into a base or laying out for a ball in the outfield.

"I'll be able play with my natural aggressiveness," he vowed, "the way I've always played. I'm not worried at all. It's not like I'm coming off major surgery. If anything, they should be stronger than they were. Any time you break something and let it heal, it should be stronger."

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.