Tito: 'No significance' to Ellsbury-Pedroia-Crawford lineup

191542.jpg

Tito: 'No significance' to Ellsbury-Pedroia-Crawford lineup

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Those seeking to read the tea leaves regarding Terry Francona's ideas for a regular-season batting order had some fresh fodder awaiting on the clubhouse bulletin board Monday morning.

For the second game of the Grapefruit League season, the Sox' lineup featured Jacoby Ellsbury leading off, Dustin Pedroia hitting second and Carl Crawford, making his Red Sox debut, hitting third.

So what was the significance of that?

Not much, according to Francona.

"That's today's lineup,'' said Francona. "We're just trying to win the Mayor's Cup. We front-loaded it today for obvious reason -- panic is setting in after a loss to Minnesota Sunday night.

"It's an obvious possibility to use that same combination at the start of the regular season, but who knows? We're just trying to get ready for the season.''

It's tough to read too much into a lineup that was not featuring projected starters Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Marco Scutaro and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

No matter what Francona does with his batting order, it seems unavoidable that there will be back-to-back lefties in the lineup somewhere. Presumably, if Francona uses the Ellsbury-Pedroia-Crawford troika at the top, Adrian Gonzalez would hit cleanup with Kevin Youkilis fifth, David Ortiz sixth and J.D. Drew seventh.

That would present two stretches of the order with consecutive lefties: Crawford and Gonzalez hitting third and fourth and Ortiz-Drew hitting next to one another at Nos. 6 and 7. But with five of their seven best hitters left-handed (Ellsbury, Crawford, Gonzalez, Ortiz and Drew), that's unavoidable at some point.

The key may well be leadoff, where Ellsbury is the manager's clear preference -- as long as he can handle the role.

"He was really starting to grow into it in 2009,'' said Francona, noting that the outfielder missed all but about 2 12 weeks with broken ribs last season. "At times, we would hit him down in the order to kind of protect him a little bit. But I think we've always said that when he's leading off and hitting well, that's our best lineup.

Francona seems to be holding off on naming Ellsbury as his leadoff man until he can judge the outfielder's readiness following his lost 2010 season.

"He came into camp swinging the bat way ahead of where I expected him to be," said Francona. "But he missed maybe 500 at-bats. So if it looks like that one fewer at-bat per game would help him, hitting him ninth to start the season is what we would do. We'll watch his at-bats."

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

Quotes, notes, and stars: "No sign" of Ortiz slowing down

snc_mcadam_0428161461991411716_3450k_1280x720_676770371564.jpg

Quotes, notes, and stars: "No sign" of Ortiz slowing down

Quotes, notes, and stars from the Red Sox' 4-2 win over the Yankees.

QUOTES:

* "He gathered himself and got a little rhythm as the night went along.'' - John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "That's a rarity for Betances to leave his breaking ball up like he did. Once David saw it up, he attacked.'' - Farrell on David Ortiz's game-winning homer.

* "There's no sign of him slowing down. Tonight is a prime example of it. Key moment, big hit when we need it. There's a long resume there and it's continuing to build.'' - Farrell on Ortiz's ability to deliver in the clutch.

* "There were some mechanical adjustments that I made. I came out a little erratic, trying to do too much, maybe focusing too much. But as game went on, I kind of got into a rhythm.'' - Owens on his start.

* "I saw him throw a lot of breaking pitches to Mookie. The one they hit stayed up a little longer than usual. He's the kind of pitcher that, if you go up there looking for everything he's got, you're done.'' - Ortiz on his game-winning homer off Dellin Betances.

NOTES:

* Over his career, David Ortiz has hit 29 go-ahead homers from the eighth inning on.

* Ortiz has eight homers in his last 24 games against the Yankees.

* The win was the first this season for the Red Sox in a game in which they were tied or trailing after seven innings.

* The Red Sox have won five of their last six and seven of their last 10.

* The Yankees have been limited to three runs or fewer in their last six games.

* In 21 games, the Yankees have faced 10 lefty starters; in 22 games, the Red Sox have faced two.

* Masahiro Tanaka has issued just one walk in his last three starts.

STARS:

1) David Ortiz

With one swing of the bat, Ortiz untied a 2-2 game in the bottom of the eighth with a game-winning two-run homer.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley's penchant for delivering a big hit continued as he rapped a two-run double to left in the seventh to erase a 2-0 Yankee lead.

3) Masahiro Tanaka

He shut the Red Sox for six innings before allowing three hits and two runs in the seventh.

First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-2 win: Ortiz has flair for the dramatic

snc_mcadam_0428161461991411716_3450k_1280x720_676770371564.jpg

First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-2 win: Ortiz has flair for the dramatic

First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-2 win over New York Yankees...

* David Ortiz still has a flair for the dramatic.

Matched against Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, Ortiz cracked a two-run homer into the Monster Seats to snap a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning. Ortiz now has 18 RBI in 23 games -- he didn't start in four of those games - and at 40, remains the one hitter opposing teams want to face with the game on the line.

Before the homer, Ortiz was 0-for-7 against Betances, with four strikeouts.

* All things considered, Henry Owens did OK.

Owens didn't fool anybody. He couldn't command his fastball, and when the Yankees did hit it, they hit it pretty hard. He walked three and hit another. But Owens managed to limit the damage in a big way, allowing just two hits in six innings despite 10 baserunners.

Occasionally, he would get bailed out by his changeup, which seems to be the lone pitch he has that is better than average by major league standards.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to hit when it counts.

Bradley got the Red Sox offense going with a two-run, two-out double off Masahiro Tanaka, when the Sox were down to their final seven outs.

In the last week along, Bradley hit an extra-inning homer; a solo homer that represented the only run of the game; a ninth-inning triple; and Friday's big two-base hit.

That he has 10 RBI from the bottom of the order suggests he can provide some sock from that spot.

* Matt Barnes continues to make strides.

Since allowing a homer to Kevin Kiermaier on the last homestand, Barnes has allowed just one run in his last four appearances, covering 6 1/3 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a .208 batting average (5-for-24).

* The Yankees bullpen gets all the attention, but in relief of Owens, Barnes, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel faced nine hitters and retired them all.