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Boras weighs in on Ellsbury

Though Jacoby Ellsbury is not at the All-Star Game, he is coming off a very solid first half, in which he hit .305 and stole 36 bases. Ellsbury remains a player to watch all season, considering this is his “walk year”.

Agent Scott Boras talked about Ellsbury’s season and future at Monday’s All-Star Media Day.

To Boras, it is simple. When Ellsbury is healthy, he produces.

“Health. Jacoby’s shoulder was really something that [impacted him last year]. Remember, Jacoby Ellsbury is a very durable player. He just has to make sure that people don’t run into him. The only time in his career he’s not been durable has been when someone ran into him, which has happened twice. And last year he came back early and played where his shoulder strength was not there. We’re starting to see that. I’m starting to see where this is starting to turn and he’s starting to drive the ball with authority in the gap, the opposite way, and that shoulder’s getting stronger as we go. And he’s always been a tremendously strong, elite athlete as far as running, quick twitch, first step in the outfield. He’s just a rare player. With each month of this season, his batting averages are going up, his numbers are there, his on-base percentage is really … Look, it’s no secret that the Red Sox are where they are. Jacoby’s had a big part of that.”

“When you get hurt, like last year, he didn’t have the shoulder strength. When he came into the season this year, when you’re a hitter and you see enough pitches, you grade off where you were, and then as the strength started coming, he’s now made the adjustment to understand more about that he does have that strength and now he’s certainly starting to let the ball get deeper and I can see more power and lift coming to him.
He understands the mental side of it, too, where his shoulder’s at. He’s now back to being healthy.

What about Ellsbury’s lack of power, compared to 2011?

“Whatever Jacoby does from the top of the lineup relative to home run power is not, that’s helpful but the main issue is that most players who are of Jacoby’s type, they don’t even know — it’s never there. They’re four, five home run guys. Jacoby, you know it’s there. There may be years where he hits 20 home runs. There may be another year that he hits 20. And there may be years when he hits 10. The reality of it is you’re going to pay him for the melding of his power, but what you’re really paying him for is the ability to score runs and the ability to get on base and the ability to provide up-the-middle defense. “

Boras laughs at the notion that the imminent arrival of Jackie Bradley Jr. will soon create an outfield log-jam and eliminate Ellsbury’s chances of staying.

“I’m sure in the Red Sox board room, Ben is sitting there going, ‘Wow, we just can’t have Jackie and Jacoby and Victorino in that outfield. They would be just too good defensively. It would provide too much production and speed. That would be such a horrible problem for us.’”

Boras is confident he will have productive discussions with Sox GM Ben Cherington once the season ends.

“Ben and I work together very well. He wants to focus on finishing the season and so do we,” Boras said.

Middlebrooks returns, Ciriaco designated for assignment to make room

By Jason Mastrodonato/MLB.com

Jose Iglesias no longer has an every-day position to call his own, but he can take some pleasure in knowing he’s not going back to Triple-A Pawtucket just yet.

Will Middlebrooks returned from the 15-day disabled list and was in Monday’s lineup against the Rays, batting eighth and taking over at third base, where Iglesias has been keeping the seat warm.

The Boston Globe first reported that Pedro Ciriaco, the Red Sox’s utility infielder who has hit .216 in limited action this season, has been designated for assignment. He would have to clear waivers to stick with the club in the Minors, though the demand for middle infielders across baseball this season indicates that Ciriaco should be claimed by some team in need.

The opening leaves Iglesias as the new utility man, a role he hasn’t yet discussed but manager John Farrell has said could get him in the lineup at least twice a week.

Iglesias hasn’t stopped hitting since being recalled when Middlebrooks went down in late May. The 23-year-old is a wizard with a glove but hasn’t hit well until this season, when he’s hitting .446 in 74 at-bats with the Red Sox.

Red Sox grab high schooler Ball with first-rounder

The Red Sox, picking seventh in the First-Year Player Draft for the first time in 20 years, took perhaps the best two-way player available in Trey Ball.

Though Boston drafted him as a left-handed pitcher, Ball, a product of New Castle Chrysler High School (Indiana) is also highly-regarded as a let-handed hitter and outfielder.

Listed at 6-5 and 174 pounds, Ball will turn 19 later this month.

“I’m a pitcher and outfielder from New Castle, Indiana and I can hit for power, I can hit for contact,” Ball said during the pre-recorded segment MLB Network displayed immediately after he was picked. “The best word that describes me as a baseball player would probably be athletic. The most influential coach in my baseball life has probably been my dad.

“He’s taught me the game since I was very little and he’s brought me to where I am now. I try to model my game after Cliff Lee. He was always very consistent in the strike zone.”

Ball has a fastball that travels into the low to mid 90s. His changeup is a plus pitch. The curveball is a work in progress, but has promise, according to scouts.

The Red Sox will now start the process of trying to sign Ball, who has a commitment to the University of Texas.

The last time the Red Sox drafted as low as seventh was 1993, when they took a left-handed hitting outfielder named Trot Nixon, who played most of his career in Boston and helped the team achieve World Series championship glory in 2004.

Ball clubbed 10 home runs in his senior year of high school. As a pitcher ,he was 6-0 with a 0.76 ERA.

Iglesias could be sticking around

When Will Middlebrooks returns to the active roster in one week against the Angels, don’t be so sure Jose Iglesias will be heading back to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Don’t forget, Iglesias had been getting some work at third and second base for Pawtucket even before the back injury to Middlebrooks.

Pedro Ciriaco hasn’t performed well in a utility role on offense or defense, and Iglesias is at the point in his development where he might benefit more from staying in the Majors — even in a bench role — than playing every day at Pawtucket.

“We haven’t ruled out that he would remain here in a utility role,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “So, he’s been exposed more to third than he has been to second. Obviously, we’re more than comfortable with him at shortstop. At some point, if we’re to strongly and surely consider him for a utility role, then he’s got to get some exposure to second base. The one thing we’re cautious of is just the pivot on the double play. I don’t know how you can emulate that in early work or in simulated-type situations, but I think most importantly, we haven’t ruled out him being in a utility role.”

Tazawa to close for now; Webster will start Wednesday

Lots of moving parts at Fenway Park here on Tuesday. Joel Hanrahan has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain. With Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey on the disabled list at the same time, Junichi Tazawa assumes the closer’s role for now.

Meanwhile, in another wrinkle, prospect Allen Webster has replaced Hanrahan on the roster and will start tomorrow night, with the struggling Felix Doubront spending the next two days in the bullpen.

Manager John Farrell said that his plan for now is to slot Doubront back into the rotation the next time around.

Catching up with Tito

Obviously the circumstances weren’t ideal for Terry Francona’s reunion with the Red Sox. Boston was devastated by tragedy on Monday, with three people getting killed and more than 100 injured by multiple bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Here is a look at what Francona said to the media before today’s game.

Obviously Francona has roots in Boston, where he lived year-round for most of his eight years as Red Sox manager.

“I’m not sure you have to have roots in Boston to care about that,” Francona said. “Obviously I do, as you guys do, too. It just seems when you turn the TV on, it’s hard for everybody. Whether it’s personal or not, it seems like it gets personal. You turn on the TV and you hear left wing, right wing. I wish there were no wings. I just wish people would get along. I don’t understand it and I don’t pretend to. I hope there are people way smarter than me who are somehow, some day able to figure this out, so stuff like this doesn’t happen. It’s hard enough being an adult. You can imagine being a little kid growing up now? It’s hard. It just makes you feel bad.Can baseball help heal people during a tough time?

“I hope so. That would be terrific. If it helps anybody at all, that would be terrific. I think that is the case. Just from being there the time I was, that day is so special to people in Boston. They’re so proud of that day. You have the Marathon, the game, it’s a big deal. It’s kind of a personal day for the city of Boston, shoot, and New England. There’s no way, I don’t know how you quantify what happens. It’s unfair. I just hope maybe this game does help some people.”

How did Francona hear about the news?

“I was here at the ballpark and one of my daughters, I saw I had a bunch of missed calls, so I called her back. That’s how I knew.”

When did he realize the magnitude of it?

“I couldn’t get to anything right away. I was tied up for a while. Then I went and turned the TV on and saw right where it was. It’s personal for just about everybody. Some of those views, you can see the church my daughter got married in. It’s very unsettling, for everybody,” Francona said.

How about playing the Red Sox for the first time?

“It’s OK. Just being as honest as I can, I had a year removed. We’re not in Boston. I had mostly eight really good years. I don’t think I’d have scripted the way it ended, but sometimes it’s time to move on. I’m really happy where I’m at here. I think it’s unfair to the players for me to have a nostalgia week. Our job is to beat them, and it is them. It doesn’t take away anything, the people I’m close to there, there’s a lot of them. I like where I’m at. I think they like where they’re at. Everything’s pretty good. I do think it will be harder when we go to Boston for me.”

How does Francona think Boston will react to the recent events?

“I really don’t know. I don’t know how anybody could answer that. I imagine they’ll be very resilient. Wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

Did Francona have time to see his old buddy, Dustin Pedroia?

“I went out and saw him for a minute, me and [former Sox catcher Kevin Cash]. He didn’t get any better looking. Neither did I.

Francona on John Farrell?

“It’s hard when the season starts. You get tunnel vision. But the day he got hired, I said the glass became half full, and I still believe that. I hope for the next three days everything that could go wrong does for them. But he’s one of my best friends, not just in baseball, but in life. They got a good hire.”

The Indians come to Boston May 23-26. That should be a far more emotional time for Francona.

On Tuesday night, 11 of the 25 players on Boston’s roster played for Francona during his time in Boston. They are: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross, Daniel Nava, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Add in three players on the DL (David Ortiz, John Lackey and Franklin Morales) and there are 14 Francona holdovers left.

Another key test aced by Bradley

Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t hide the fact that he was giving prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. a key test on Sunday to make sure he’s ready for the challenge of being on the Opening Day roster. In Sunday’s road game against the Phillies, Bradley started in left field on a day the Red Sox were facing Cliff Lee, one of the toughest lefties in the Majors.

So what did Bradley do? In his first at-bat, he belted a three-run homer to left-center.

This as also Bradley’s first time starting in the same outfield as Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino. Bradley played two innings in left on Friday in Dunedin but this was his first start there since his freshman year of high school in 2005.

No decisions have been made, but the possibility seems to be growing by the day that Bradley will head North with the Red Sox and help fill the void left by David Ortiz Stephen Drew, who are all but certain to start the season on the disabled list.

“This is probably the best environment we could put him in on the road, away from our ballpark, going up against a very good pitcher. This will be a good day for him,” said Farrell.

Farrell can’t help but recall similarities to another spring he saw a top prospect win a job out of camp, helped by an injury to a key player. When Farrell was the Indians’ farm director in 2005, Grady Sizemore was optioned down to the Minors during Spring Training. However, Juan Gonzalez suffered in injury later in camp, and Sizemore broke camp with the Indians and became a star for many years, before injuries derailed him.

What does Farrell remember about Sizemore in the spring of 2005?

“That he was ready. As is the case many times, it’s out of the players’ control. But an injury opened up a spot for him.”

And that could again be happening in 2013.

An Opening Day type of lineup

The Red Sox play the Phillies under the lights tonight in Fort Myers, and it’s a pretty good pitching matchup. John Lackey for the Sox, and Cole Hamels for Philly.

Look at the lineup manager John Farrell has posted for today, and it could be the same one you see on April 1 in New York.

Ellsbury CF

Victorino RF

Pedroia 2B

Napoli 1B

Middlebrooks 3B

Gomes LF

Saltalamacchia C

Nava DH

Iglesias SS

 

Brian Roberts to Stephen Drew: ‘Make sure that you’re right’

Stephen Drew is on his way to visit the head of the University of Pittsburgh concussion program, Micky Collins, on Tuesday. Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who’s been hampered by a pair of concussions of his own, had some advice for the Red Sox shortstop.

“I’d say he’s going to see a great guy, I think that it’s a scary situation,” Roberts said. “And I would tell him to trust his instincts, to trust what he’s feeling. And know that there is an end in sight. But the in the midst of it it’s a really tough place to be.

“I think the hardest part of that injury is that people don’t have any idea what’s going on because they can’t see it.”

Told Drew’s concussion was suffered on a pitch that didn’t make the most direct impact possible with his helmet, Roberts said his second concussion was similar because he did not directly hit his head when he dove: “Oh I know, I got the same thing.”

“I hit myself in the head obviously and my second one I dove headfirst in Boston, I didn’t hit my head on the ground. But your brain it basically just sits in there. And all that needs to be done is juggled a little bit. Doesn’t have to be a helmet to helmet collision in football for it to happen.”

“I hurt for him, I feel for him because I know what it’s like. But I think the thing you got to realize you got to be careful it’s the rest of your life, it’s your brain, make sure that you’re right before you do anything. I think the biggest thing is he sees so many cases, he’s done a lot of research. He knows that everyone is different but they also have a way of understanding what part of the brain has been affected, and how to help rehab that.”

Roberts has only the highest praise for Collins and what Drew is about to go through in Pittsburgh.

“They do a battery of testing,” Roberts said. “They do the obviously one which is the ImPACT test on the computer, but then there’s a whole bunch of other things that they do there at the facility that most people don’t see or don’t know. A bunch of other testing to find out, like I said, what area of the brain has been affected and what needs to be looked at. What needs to be rehabbed.

“There’s a little bit of everything, they’ll do some ocular testing, some vision testing. So there’s numerous areas of the brain that can be affected.”

– Evan Drellich

Aceves throws inning, talks philosophy

Fourteen pitches, seven strikes and one inning thrown in a Double-A game Wednesday led Alfredo Aceves to some pitching ruminations.

There’s long been a belief in baseball that you can’t try to throw hard, that if you’re tense and trying to throw a ball 180 mph, you won’t even hit 90 mph. That may not be a revelation for anyone in the game or even for Aceves himself, but the Red Sox right-hander gave credit to that philosophy for his elevated velocity in 2012.

Aceves averaged 94.7 mph on his fastball last season, a jump from 93.4 mph, according to BrooksBaseball.

“It was more maña than fuerza when I get 98,” Aceves said after the backfield outing at Fenway South. “My mind tell me to relax my body and let my body do it. … Maña es mejor que fuerza.”

The rest of the Major League Red Sox were off on Wednesday.

Before Wednesday, Aceves had last pitched six days ago, going three innings for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. He’s set to start Saturday on the road against the Rays, and he feels the Classic hasn’t set back his regular-season preparation.

“The only thing is we travelled four hours and a half to Phoenix,” Aceves said. “Everybody is doing the little things that we have to do to maintain ourselves.”

– Evan Drellich

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