Ever since he came onto the Red Sox scene this season, Jacoby Ellsbury hasn't handled himself like a rookie. So when he was told he was making his first playoff start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Indians on Saturday, he apparently took the news in stride.
Ever since he came onto the Red Sox scene this season, Jacoby Ellsbury hasn't handled himself like a rookie.
He's been cool, seldom nervous and played a key part in the Red Sox's success.
So when he was told he was making his first playoff start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Indians on Saturday, he apparently took the news in stride.
"I didn't ask him if he was nervous," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I just told him he was playing. I didn't see hives or anything down there."
Ellsbury got the nod over Coco Crisp, who has struggled through eight playoff games. Through the division series against the Angels and the first five game against the Indians, the center fielder has hit just .143 (5-for-21) with no home runs, no RBI and just two runs scored. He's been hitless in his last 12 at-bats.
Ellsbury has appeared in five games this postseason, mostly as a defensive replacement or pinch-runner. He's 0-for-1 with a run scored.
But Ellsbury has wowed Red Sox Nation and his teammates since his arrival earlier this year. He went 6-for-19 (.316) in seven games over his first two stints with the team (June 30 to July 5 and Aug. 17), but it was when he was called up Sept. 1 that he really hit his stride.
He put together a 13-game hitting streak from Sept. 1-15 during which he hit .426 (20-for-47) with three doubles, a triple, three home runs, 13 RBI, 11 runs and four stolen bases. He ended the month with the 10th highest batting average for September at .361 (35-for-97), was tied for fourth with eight steals and tied for ninth in hits.
Put the three call-ups together, he hit .353 with three home runs, 18 RBI and nine stolen bases.
"He's got a chance to be a great player," Francona said. "He does a lot of things. He can really run. We don't know if he's going to hit for power."
Ellsbury hit just two home runs in 436 minor league at-bats this season.
"Allard Baird (assistant to the general manager) said in one of our meetings, 'This kid has survival skills,'" Francona said. "I think what he meant by that is kind of like (Dustin) Pedroia; he's not up here for the ride, he's up here to win. When you get a young player like that, that's pretty special.
"You can get a guy playing and maybe get some hits that help you. But when you get a young kid that seems to understand Boston, what every game means, that has a chance to make him a better player."
Francona said he thought about making the switch prior to Game 4 of the series but stuck with Crisp.
"I thought about it because of Crisp's history with (Indians starter) Paul Byrd and his defense, and that fact that (lefthander) C.C. Sabathia was pitching the next day," Francona said. "I didn't want to. I always talk about doing the right thing and I felt like this was in the best interest of our ballclub."
Francona added that he didn't announce the move on the off-day on Friday because he hadn't spoken to Crisp yet.
"I didn't want to announce something like that and have him get bombarded," Francona said. "I went down and talked to him after the workout and explained to him what we're doing."
Francona said Crisp will assume Ellsbury's role off the bench, perhaps
serving as some late-game speed if needed.
"Anbody who sits there and says they can't wait to tell somebody something they know is going to crush him, I think is crazy," Francona said. "I don't enjoy doing that. I don't think anybody does, but we always try to do the right thing. We try to do it the right way.
"I didn't expect Coco to jump up and hug me. If I was him, I wouldn't
either. We try to do it correctly and with respect and give him the reasons why."
Sticking with Lugo
Shortstop Julio Lugo is hitting just .214 this postseason, .167 in the ALCS, but Francona decided to stick with him instead of going to Alex Cora.
"There was some temptation (to change), actually," Francona said. "The reason I didn't is that Lugo always has his speed.
"The part that worried me about playing Ellsbury is the fact that he hasn't played that much, and Alex Cora hasn't played at all. I think you're putting a guy in an unfair position.
"I think with Ellsbury, even if he makes soft contact there's always the
ability to use the wheels to get hits. I did give it some thought."
Indians change, too
Indians manager Eric Wedge also made a change in his starting outfield, giving Trot Nixon the start over Franklin Gutierrez in right field.
"Trot has obviously played so many games here in right field, big games, in the postseason," Edge said. "To get that experience in the lineup, another left-handed bat, a guy that's been a leader on our team all year long, I felt it was the right thing to do today."
Nixon came off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the 11th inning of Game 2 of the series and delivered the winning hit in the Indians' 13-6 victory.
Wedge, however, also likes the leadership Nixon provides.
"In spring training early on in season, he's boisterous," Wedge said. "He's not afraid to say what he thinks. He's important to us a ballclub because I think he's been a mentor, and in some ways to some of our core players who are developing into leaders themselves.
"He's been through so much, and that's really helped us. Along with some of the other guys we have here, veteran guys who we have here, I think Trot has probably been more out front than anybody."
Beckett in Game 7?
Daisuke Matsuzaka will get the start tonight if there is a Game 7, but
Francona didn't rule out using Josh Beckett out of the bullpen in the game.
"That's something that if we're fortunate to revisit, we will," Francona said. "We always discuss everything with everybody. The best way I can answer it is that I hope we're in a situation where we can discuss it. That's as far as I'd go with it."
Beckett has been brilliant in the postseason, going 3-0 in the two series with a 1.17 ERA. He started Game 1 and Game 5 against the Indians, last pitching on Thursday.
Farrell in New York?
Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell's name has surfaced as one of the
candidates to replace Joe Torre as Yankees' manager.
"He came in today and I didn't want to talk to him about what we're doing tonight," Francona said, joking. "It was like I was sharing secrets."
Francona, however, then got serious.
"When we hired John, I remember tell(ing) you guys (the media) that this guy's a star," Francona said. "Because of what he does and how he does it, you're always going to hear his name. On one side I'm really proud because he's one of my best friends. You get divided because that's the way it is. I'm excited when I hear any of our guys' names like that."
-- The Enterprise