BOSTON Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is back in the lineup tonight after leaving Monday nights game against the Angels with a left knee contusion. Ellsbury hurt his knee when he collided with catcher Jeff Mathis scoring in the Sox sixth-run seventh inning.
Hes doing good, said manager Terry Francona. We checked with him this morning and then he called us back and said hes feeling pretty good. And he got a little treatment and said hes ready to go.
Ellsbury is riding an 11-game hitting streak -- a team high for the season -- into Tuesdays game against the Angels. He is hitting .383 (18-for-47) with seven doubles, five RBI, 11 runs scored and four walks in that span, raising his average from .182 on April 20 to his current .275. That stretch includes the last 10 games in which he has moved back into the lead-off spot.
While the results are obvious, Francona said he has not noticed an obvious difference in Ellsburys approach.
You're seeing success. I dont know about the approach, Francona said. I just think youre seeing him hit balls maybe he didn't hit earlier in the season. I think hes always tried to use the entire field and things like that but when you do it hes getting to pitches he didn't get to earlier in the season. Because of that hes not afraid to hit deeper in the count so hes probably a better hitter.
Josh Beckett is expected to start Wednesday, opposed by Angels right-hander Ervin Santana, after being pushed from his scheduled start Monday. He threw 125 pitches one shy of his career high in eight innings April 21 in Anaheim, then was limited to 92 over six innings on April 27 in Baltimore. Francona said Beckett will not be on a pitch limit Wednesday.
We always look at their workload and try not to do it just for one game but for down the road, too, Francona said.
After his win over the Angels Monday night, Clay Buchholz acknowledged the decrease in his strikeout totals this season. So far in 2011, he has a 4.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio, below his career average of 6.8, his high of 8.7 in 2007, and his 2010 mark of 6.2. The number has fallen in each of major league seasons since 2007.
If you pitch to contact, you get some balls hit at guys first or second pitch of the at-bat rather than having to throw six pitches to get a strikeout, Buchholz said. Obviously when you get to two strikes you want to try to strike somebody out, to not let them put the ball in play. But you cant strike anybody on the first or second pitch of an at-bat. Thats my thought process on it. Got to two strikes a couple of times and left some balls on the plate and they hit it. So got to do a little better executing that.
At the same time, though, his walk totals have been increasing. This season he has a 4.8 walks-per-nine ration, above his career number of 3.9, and his 2009 and 2010 marks of 3.5 each. His strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 0.94 is below his career number of 1.74.
His velocitys good. The balls coming out of his hand good, Francona said. Walks I think are up, which we certainly dont want. I think were actually kind of happy when he pitches to contact. I think as he gets into games and works ahead in the count youll see his strikeouts go up. But I think we actually like the contact. He got into some situations last night, fastball counts and threw fastballs and induced some outs. I think we really like that.
Right-hander Dan Wheeler enters Tuesdays game with a 9.90 ERA after giving up three runs on four hits in 1 13 innings Monday.
He actuallys been better lately, Franco said. Its a little bit like Scott Atchison the cutter guy. Its a great pitch until you leave it out over the middle. Then it gets whacked. And thats kind of what Wheels is. Its not overpowering. Its crisp and hes got that nice cutter and when you leave it out over the middle its a pitch that can be hit.
Francona said he does not want to shy away from using Wheeler.
When guys start out slow its why we dont want to run from them, Francona said. Its a bad mistake. You certainly want to pick your spots with them a little bit until they get on a run but the idea is to get them feeling comfortable as opposed to not pitching them.
We love the fact that guys throw strikes. When they pound the strike zone thats great. But you got to stay out of the middle, too.
Bobby Jenks has also struggled in his brief time with the Sox. But after his outing on Sunday against the Mariners, his second blown save of the season, Jenks said he watched video and found his flaws. Francona will not by shy about using the right-hander.
No. We need him to pitch those situations, Francona said. For us to be the type of team we want to be, he needs to pitch in those situations. Weve run into some problems earlier in the season where we couldnt do that just because we lost a lot games. But for us to get where we want we need him to get on a roll.
Dustin Pedroia has played in all 28 games so far, and is in the lineup again Tuesday. Francona said he has no plans to rest his second baseman with a surgically repaired right foot.
No, I was the other day, Francona said. I was thinking about it the other day and he said he was going to kill me. There was an adjective in front of it. Hes a really good player. Sometimes -- like when we talk about Jason Varitek not getting hits but winning games this guy impacts the game all over the field. I will certainly try to get him a day before he really desperately needs it. But I think right now Ill leave him in.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen