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Red Sox notes: Jacoby Ellsbury and the stolen base question

03.23.13 at 2:46 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — On the surface, it seems curious. Why hasn’t Jacoby Ellsbury stolen a base — or even attempted to steal a base — this spring?

Entering Saturday, he’d played in 14 games without attempting to swipe a single base. Why?

“There’s not a particular reason,” said Farrell.

After all, the two-time American League leader in stolen bases didn’t attempt any steals in the spring of 2012. He swiped two bags in as many attempts in 2011 (prior to his 30-30 season), went 1-for-1 in 2010, 2-for-3 before his 70-steal season in 2009 and 4-for-5 before his 50-steal campaign in 2008.

All of that being the case, Farrell seemed anything but concerned about Ellsbury’s inactivity on stolen base opportunities. Indeed, he’s encouraged it.

“I don’t know that it’s unusual,” said the manager. “I know that there’s been times when we’ve talked about certain things, and not that this is the same guy but [also] with [Dustin] Pedroia, we’ve got to make sure that we get out of here healthy first. We’ve had some opportunities to run and we’ve just basically shut them down from not running.”

So, there’s not a lot to read into the spring. (Also worth noting: In the first inning of Saturday’s game against the Pirates, Ellsbury took off from second to third on a pitch on which Dustin Pedroia ended up grounding out.) Still, there remains some intrigue about just what kind of baserunning presence Ellsbury will be this year. After all, last year — a year in which he lost half a season after suffering a shoulder subluxation in early April — he stole a career-low 14 bases in 17 attempts while appearing in 74 games.

Whether it was related to an element of caution in the aftermath of the injury, the fact that the Sox were trailing quite a bit once Ellsbury returned to the lineup or a career-low on-base percentage (.313) that limited his opportunities, a player whose arrival in the majors was characterized by his aggressiveness on the bases seemed more conservative as the season unfolded.

Farrell saw that from the Blue Jays dugout last year.

“He wasn’t the guy that stole 70 a couple years ago,” he acknowledged, “but that is strongly being encouraged [this spring] — not the number, but the approach.”

Farrell believes that Ellsbury can get back to the point of being a difference-maker on the bases, regardless of what he does over the duration of spring training.

“I think he’s a pretty adept base stealer. I don’t think he’s lost a knack to steal bases or reads on certain pitchers,” said Farrell. “I’m confident he still has base stealing capability.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

– Farrell said he’s still not ready to name an Opening Day starter, though an announcement of Jon Lester for that April 1 assignment continues to look like a fait accompli.

– The manager described Daniel Bard as being “closer” to being the reliever he was before his misadventures as a starter last year, though acknowledged that the team will need to see greater consistency — both outing-to-outing and batter-to-batter — over his remaining three appearances this spring if he’s to make the Opening Day roster. Farrell noted particularly that, in his last couple of outings, Bard has been out of whack at the start of his appearance before finding a rhythm after a few batters.

For now, Farrell suggests that a determination has not been made about whether to start the year with Bard in the big leagues or the minors. The team sees promise, but recognizes that the right-hander is a work in progress after following three strong outings with a pair in which he’s struggled with his delivery and command out of the gate.

“Still some continuing work to be done there. It’€™s still part of the process to get him back to the reliever we’€™ve known him to be,” said Farrell. ‘€œIt is going [the right] way. I don’€™t think it’€™s where it will ultimately end up. That will continue to increase just by virtue of repeating his delivery and gaining some confidence along the way. … Daniel is well aware of this — that this isn’€™t a flipping of the switch. This is a step process that he’€™s making solid progress in.’€

Stephen Drew hit on the field in batting practice on Saturday for the first time since suffering a concussion on March 7. David Ortiz was slated to swing in a cage. Farrell said that the goal for him is to do something on the field — whether running or taking batting practice by the end of spring training.

Franklin Morales is throwing on flat ground at 90 feet; fellow DL-bound left-hander Craig Breslow is working at 120 feet. Both are expected to say in Fort Myers in extended spring training when the team breaks camp.

– Utility man Pedro Ciriaco, sidelined by back spasms, could return to a game (either in minor league camp or against the Phillies in Clearwater) as soon as Sunday.

Read More: Daniel Bard, franklin morales, Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew
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