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Ellsbury: The new No. 2

02.20.10 at 9:17 am ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Those Jacoby Ellsbury No. 46 jerseys suddenly are collector’s items.

The new Red Sox left fielder has something else new this spring besides his position. He will be wearing his favorite number. He spoke about both at length on Saturday morning as he arrived with several other position players, two days ahead of the reporting deadline.

For the first time since high school, Ellsbury will be wearing the No. 2 when he takes the field for the Sox this season.

[Click here to listen to Ellsbury explain his switch from No. 46 to No. 2]

When bench coach Brad Mills left for the managerial job of the Houston Astros, Ellsbury got the number he was looking for. Ellsbury had actually planted the seed with clubhouse staffer Edward “Pookie” Jackson earlier in the winter and upon Mills’ departure, Ellsbury made sure that no one else was getting it.

“I talked to Brad when he was here but he wasn’t going to give it to me so I told Pookie that if the number ever came available, I would be the first one to jump on it,” Ellsbury said. “Right when I heard that Brad Mills had been [hired], [Jackson] was the first one I called. It was within two minutes of me finding out.”

And for the first time since 2007, when he filled in for the injured Manny Ramirez, he will be seeing plenty of time as a corner outfielder, starting the season as the team’s left fielder.

“That was the biggest thing [Terry Francona] emphasized to me, it’s not a demotion,” Ellsbury said. “It’s just he thought team would be better with me going to left and Cam [Mike Cameron] going to center.

“I took it as if it’s going to make the team better, I’m all for it.”

[Click here to hear Ellsbury’s take on his move to left field and the team’s explanation to him.]

One of Ellsbury’s most famous plays in a Red Sox uniform came as a left fielder when he caught the screaming liner off the bat of Colorado’s Jamey Carroll before crashing into the fence in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2007 World Series.

“I’ve never been a regular left fielder, but I know the year I came up, Manny was down for about a month so that was the most I’ve played in left,” Ellsbury said.

There are those who theorize that moving Ellsbury to left field will save his legs somewhat from covering as much territory as he normally would in center, perhaps increasing his already impressive stolen base numbers.

Last season, Ellsbury shattered the single-season team record for steals with 70, one season after swiping 50.

“I look back at some of the better base stealers in the league over the years and lot of them happen to be left fielders or right fielders,” he said. “So, I try to look for the best in it and I think it’s going to work out. I don’t think it should be a problem at all. They say it will save on my legs, but I’ll still be going for balls hard and still be running.”

Read More: Jacoby Ellsbury, mike cameron, Red Sox,
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