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Red Sox notes: John Farrell explains switch for Grady Sizemore 04.10.14 at 7:37 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

NEW YORK — Prior to his team’€™s series-opening game against the Yankees Thursday night, John Farrell explained why Grady Sizemore had been pushed over to left field, with Jackie Bradley Jr. manning center.

Farrell said the move had more to do with the venue then anything else.

“With the ground that’s going to be covered here in Yankee Stadium is almost the reverse of what we deal with at Fenway,” he said. “To keep Jackie in center field and Grady over in left is for that particular reason — to cover the vast space that’s on the left side of the field.”

The manager then added, “As we sat down and talked with Grady about this, well aware that he has defensively only played center field at the big-league level, he’s played a number of games at the minor league level in left field. The alignment being here at Yankee Stadium, that’s what we’re looking to cover.

“It’s an alignment we’ve talked about internally. It’s best fitting here with the ground to cover. Whether or not this is something we do, I’m not going to say on a permanent basis because we’ve shown we’re going to rotate Jonny Gomes through there and he’s going to get ample time in left field as well. This is the way we’re going at it tonight. This isn’t something that we’re looking to pencil in every day going forward.”

Then there was the matter of where Sizemore was hitting in the lineup.

For just the second time this season, the outfielder found himself at the top of the batting order, with Farrell moving Daniel Nava — who had gotten the majority of time at the top of the order against right-handed starters — down to fifth.

“It’s as much trying to get Daniel going,” Farrell said. “We still value the on-base, which Daniel has a strong track record of that, and yet right now we feel like we’ve got to give him an opportunity to get his feet on the ground offensively. Once he does, we feel like he’ll be in that spot. Just trying to make the most of the current streaks or the way guys are swinging the bat right now.”

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Red Sox-Yankees series preview at 2:18 pm ET
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The Red Sox will head to New York on the heels of a dramatic victory on Wednesday night, taking on the Yankees and former center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury in a weekend four-game set.

After being swept in their first Fenway series of 2014, the Red Sox were looking for some redemption against the Rangers, and thanks to some solid pitching and dramatics from David Ortiz, they took the rubber game of the set to win their second series of the season.

“It was a big one for our team. Getting swept, coming back in we needed to bounce back and win the series,” said starter Jake Peavy, who delivered 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball. “So I knew coming in that it was a big start, and we needed to find a way to scratch and claw and get a win out of this. Especially going to New york, it’€™s always a fun and intense rivalry, and it’€™s nice to go in there with a little momentum.”

The Red Sox, like much of the rest of the AL East, have stumbled out of the gate a little bit, going 4-5 over their first three series. The big hit, which came from none other than Ortiz on Wednesday, has been elusive for the Red Sox, who have grounded into 17 double plays over just nine games, which stands as the most in the majors (four more than the team with the second most).

After going 85-77 in 2013 and missing the postseason for just the second time in 19 years, the Yankees sought to rebuild their roster and restore their dominance in the AL East during the offseason, which resulted in all kinds of turnover during the winter. The Yankees lost star second baseman Robinson Cano, starting pitcher Phil Hughes and outfielder Curtis Granderson to free agency, saw legendary closer Mariano Rivera and longtime starter Andy Pettitte retire, and had to fill the void left by Alex Rodriguez‘€™s 162-game suspension.

They responded by dishing out $555 million in salaries to the likes of Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Brendan Ryan, Brian Roberts, Matt Thornton, Kelly Johnson, Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, and of course, Ellsbury. They also signed outfielder Brett Gardner to a four-year extension, as well as re-signing starter Hiroki Kuroda and face of the franchise, Derek Jeter, who announced that 2014 would be his final season.

But the Yankees already are experiencing some of the same problems that plagued them in 2013. First baseman Mark Teixeira hit the disabled list with a hamstring strain, and new closer David Robertson joined him Monday after suffering a groin strain. The injuries weaken the two biggest question marks for the Yankees: their infield and their bullpen. They’ll be forced to use a combination of relievers to fill the void left by Robertson, and the infield will be spread thinner to compensate for Texeira’s absence.

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Replacing Jacoby Ellsbury in leadoff spot hasn’t been easy for Red Sox at 8:37 am ET
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Daniel Nava

Daniel Nava

The Red Sox have stated the primary goal for their leadoff men is to get on base. Plain and simple. The thinking is that you have to get on base in order score runs.

It just so happened that Jacoby Ellsbury — the guy who used to lead off for the Red Sox and now plays for the Yankees — did both of those things, along with stealing a bunch of bases.

Well, thus far this season, the Red Sox‘ replacements for Ellsbury at the top of the order haven’t gotten on base a whole bunch, have scored just four runs, and haven’t even attempted a stolen base.

Daniel Nava has hit in the top spot a team-high five times, going 3-for-20 with a walk and two runs.

Jonny Gomes has hit in the leadoff spot in three games, managing two hits in nine at-bats with three walks and one run scored.

Grady Sizemore has gotten the chance to lead off once, going 0-for-4 with a walk while scoring a run.

Red Sox leadoff hitters carry the third-worst OPS (.539) in the majors, hitting a combined .176. On the bright side, they are seeing the third-most pitches per plate appearance of any group of leadoff men in the game (4.38).

So, what has Ellsbury meant to his new team? The center fielder has been moved to the third spot in the batting order, with Brett Gardner sliding up. But in his four games leading off, Ellsbury went 6-for-16 (.375) with three walks, three runs and three steals.

Gardner has been almost as good in his five games leading off, hitting .300 (6-for-20) with three walks and two runs while seeing 4.39 pitches per plate appearance.

What to do? Your thoughts …

Who should get the majority of opportunities to leadoff for the Red Sox?

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Ken Rosenthal on D&C: Sox will have issue if Shane Victorino is banged up 03.31.14 at 9:52 am ET
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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal

Fox Sports baseball reporter Ken Rosenthal joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to talk about the state of the Red Sox on Opening Day. To listen to the full interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters on Sunday that Shane Victorino was in Boston for an MRI on his right hamstring and will have the leg examined early Monday.

“Obviously Victorino is a huge part of what they did last year, and his performance was probably the big surprise because, remember, that contract was not well received when he signed it,” Rosenthal said. “People thought that he was in decline, including myself.

“He played at an extremely high level, played great defense in right field and obviously was a postseason hero as well. If he is not right, yes, something is wrong, and with [Jackie Bradley Jr.] unproven and Bradley perhaps being no more in his career other than perhaps a fourth outfielder, you’ve got some questions there.

“Now, they’ve got depth with [Mike] Carp and [Daniel] Nava. They can do some things, and that’s one of the things I really like about them, but at the same time, Victorino is a huge part. We saw that last year, and if he’s banged up all year, and he’€™s not right — and he can be like that because he is somewhat older, plays hard and bangs himself up — that’s going to be an issue.”

If Victorino has an injury-plagued season, Boston could feel the loss of former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury more than the team originally thought.

Jacoby Ellsbury is a really, really good player,” Rosenthal said. “We all know that. Maybe he was a little bit underappreciated. He had the injury controversy that one year and of course as a Scott Boras client, most fans knew he was going to leave and I get that always tempers enthusiasm for a player. At the same time, he was outstanding at his best. When he was hurt, clearly not as outstanding and not the player we all talk about.

“If Victorino in particular is banged up — and this is speculation, right — if he plays 80-100 games instead of 130-140, then you might see people say, ‘If only we had Jacoby,’ but I don’€™t know that people are going to look at it that way. I don’€™t know if the club officials will look at it that way because the reality is it’s not like they were going to pay Jacoby $153 million, everyone knew it was coming, I believe.”

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John Farrell ‘a little surprised’ Robinson Cano no longer in pinstripes as Red Sox skipper assesses Yankees 03.19.14 at 10:46 am ET
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David Ortiz (left) and Robinson Cano share a laugh before a 2013 Red Sox-Yankees game. (AP)

David Ortiz (left) and Robinson Cano share a laugh before a 2013 Red Sox-Yankees game. (AP)

TAMPA — For all the talk Tuesday about Jacoby Ellsbury, there is a player absent from the Yankee clubhouse this season that could play just as big a factor this year in the Red Sox-Yankees dynamic.

Robinson Cano signed with the Mariners in December for 10 years and $240 million. The second baseman who broke in with the Yankees in 2005, is a lifetime .304 hitter, with a .509 slugging percentage and a career .860 OPS. Against the Red Sox, he hammered 21 homers, just over 10 percent of his career 205 total, and his other lifetime marks against Boston (.308/.356/.502) are right at his career averages.

“I know one thing, I’m glad we don’t have to face him 19 times,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “From across the field, he was the type of type of player you thought would be in one place for his entire career, as dominant an offensive player, as dominant a player as he’s been, we have full respect of the player. You never know how things are going to transpire. Maybe a little surprised he’s not in a Yankee uniform.”

Cano had a root canal on March 5 but time will tell if the Yankees will need one for their aging infield.

The Yankees are going with the low-budget alternative to start the season at second base in Brian Roberts. Kelly Johnson is a second base/third base option, Mark Teixeira is at first and Derek Jeter will start his final season at short. And, of course, Stephen Drew is still out on the market.

“They’ve got tremendous resources,” Farrell added. “This division is going to be difficult, top to bottom. Teams might go about it differently based on their own model. From the outside, you anticipated some changes. To what extent, that remains to be seen. A lot of new names. A lot of really good players.”

The Yankees decided to spend $471 million on longterm investments in the offseason on four players – namely catcher Brian McCann, starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, outfielder Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury.

“I don’t know if there’s any one guy that stands out more than another,” Farrell said. “I think the one thing that kind of jumps out is the pace in which they got Jacoby. As quick as they moved to sign him, that was the one thing that was [surprising]. That offer obviously had to be so much greater than anything Jacoby was fielding, not knowing anything. To make that decision that quick in the offseason, obviously they were very aggressive going towards him.”

Ellsbury signed for $153 million for seven years in early December, just over a month after the center fielder won his second World Series ring in seven seasons. The media attention this week, with the Red Sox playing the Yankees twice, falls naturally on Ellsbury.

“I don’t know if we have any way of knowing what an individual player’s market is going to be,” Farrell said of his former center fielder. “He was a good player so he was going to draw the attention of a lot big market teams because he’s in that class of player.”

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Mike Petraglia, Rob Bradford on Jacoby Ellsbury, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Felix Doubront 03.18.14 at 5:36 pm ET
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TAMPA — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Rob Bradford assess the first rocky outing of the spring for Red Sox starter Felix Doubront in an 8-1 loss to the Yankees Tuesday at Steinbrenner Field. Petraglia and Bradford also go in depth on Jacoby Ellsbury, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Grady Sizemore.

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Jacoby Ellsbury: ‘A lot of great memories’ of playing with Red Sox at 12:39 pm ET
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TAMPA — The Red Sox had their first glimpse of a familiar face in an unfamiliar uniform.

With the Sox visiting the Yankees in Tampa, Jacoby Ellsbury had a chance to enjoy a reunion with some of his former Boston teammates, exchanging pleasantries in the batting cage with some of the players and coaches who made the trip up from Fort Myers for Tuesday’s exhibition game. Ellsbury said that the encounter “seemed pretty normal,” particularly given that he remains in touch with a number of his former teammates.

Asked if it was difficult to leave the Red Sox this offseason, Ellsbury spoke fondly of his time in Boston.

“I’ve always said I enjoyed playing there. Have a lot of memories. Spent nine years playing in the organization. That’s roughly a third of my life with one team,” said Ellsbury. “So definitely a lot of great memories, a lot of friends over there and I still continue to have relationships with those guys down the road.”

Ellsbury said that he made it clear to the Sox that he’d be happy to return in free agency.

“They knew I enjoyed playing there,” he said. “They definitely did.”

However, the Yankees moved quickly and aggressively to sign Ellsbury in free agency to a seven-year, $153 million deal, a process that concluded in the first days of December. Since then, the center fielder suggests that he has been amidst a “very easy transition” in which he’s been “welcomed with … open arms.”

“It happened pretty quick,” said Ellsbury. “Play deep, winning the World Series, you go play an extra month, then free agency hits, you start talking to teams, it was exciting when they made the offer, I saw what they were doing, their history, a chance to win right away, a chance to win championships. That was the biggest thing that was appealing.”

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