FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jacoby Ellsbury said Thursday he enjoys playing for the Red Sox. As to whether he will stay with the team, that’s a question he would prefer agent Scott Boras answer.
Ellsbury will be a free agent after the coming season, having taken three consecutive one-year contracts since gaining arbitration rights.
Can he see himself in Boston next season?
“I think I’m focused on just playing,” said Ellsbury. “I’m focused on helping the team win. Any questions about contracts or anything like that, I think it’s best to just call my agent and do it that way.”
Ellsbury then deflected a question about whether he even wants a long-term offer from the Sox.
“Like I’ve said a lot of times, I love playing here,” he said. “I love the fans. I appreciate the Red Sox obviously giving me my opportunity early in my career in the draft and selecting me. I love playing here.
“Any contract stuff like that, just kind of like I said last year, if there is anything that comes on the table, if I’m presented with something, we’ll go from there.”
Boras said in December that Ellsbury would benefit more by going on the open market.
Team president Larry Lucchino was asked about the odds of retaining Ellsbury.
“Would we like to have him here? Yes,” said Lucchino. “Do I think that there will be some negotiations that will take place during the course of the year, perhaps sooner? Possibly. We wouldn’t rule anything out.
“We’d really very much like to have him here, like to have him be part of a core Red Sox team.”
Manager John Farrell hopes that pending free agency will serve to spur Ellsbury this season.
“I don’t think that becomes a distraction for him,” said Farrell. “He’s a motivated player.”
Voices from LA
Former Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who was traded to the Dodgers last August, blamed team management for last season’s debacle.
“Chemistry is something you need to have among the players but also with the owners, the coaches, and the front office,” Gonzalez told USA Today. “It needs to be complete.
“In Boston, we had great chemistry among the players — we loved each other, we were together — but that was only among the players. It wasn’t there with the rest. That’s why the team didn’t win. It needs to be an organization-wide thing.’’
There was poor communication between former manager Bobby Valentine and his coaches last season, but few players would blame performance on such a thing.
“He could have been referring to, I suppose, coaches, managers, front office people,” said Lucchino. “I’m not going to comment on all the possibilities. I really don’t know. I have fond feelings for [Gonzalez] and I wish him great good luck where he is.”
Another former Red Sox player, Carl Crawford, said his two years in Boston were depressing.
“I knew with the struggles I was having, it would never get better for me,” Crawford told the Los Angeles Times. “I just didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. It puts you in kind of a depression stage. You just don’t see a way out.
“Toughest two years of my career, by far. From the outside, you watch guys playing over there and you think you can go and play. But you realize, once you get there, it’s a little tougher than you expected.”
Crawford said the environment was “toxic” in Boston and that he regretted signing a seven-year, $142 million deal.
Crawford hit .260 with a .292 on-base percentage in two seasons with the Red Sox. He hit 14 home runs in 623 at-bats and stole 23 bases.
A place in his heart
Kevin Youkilis arrived at Yankees camp clean-shaven, in adherence to team rules. He also has a new batting stance after working with hitting coach Kevin Long over the winter.
But his heart remains in Boston.
“I’ll always be a Red Sock,” Youkilis told reporters in Tampa. “To negate all the years I played for the Boston Red Sox, and all the tradition, you look at all the stuff I have piled up at my house and to say I’d just throw it out the window, it’s not true.”
Getting to know you
New right fielder Shane Victorino will play for the United States in the World Baseball Classic. He played in the tournament in 2009 and was eager to return.
But Victorino said it was a tough decision this year given that he was joining a new team.
“Of course it was,” he said. “You don’t want to get pulled away from the organization in regards from that. That USA team that I get to play on and represent our country was the deciding factor for me.”
The concern for the Sox is Victorino losing time to develop defensive chemistry with Ellsbury. Farrell said the Sox would take every opportunity to play the two together.
“Hopefully he stays healthy, I think that’s the most important part,” said Victorino. “Jacoby needs to stay healthy. He’s had some unfortunate injuries but when he’s healthy, to me, I think he’s one of the best center fielders in the game. It’s going to be fun playing alongside him.”
The energetic Victorino barely paused to take a breath during his session with reporters. Farrell joked that it was the same way when he called to recruit Victorino during his free agency.
“I listened a lot on the phone call,” he said.
Farrell will address the team before today’s first full-squad workout. His message will focus on expectations. “When you communicate what you expect, we can all be held accountable in our own way,” he said. “That’s not to be authoritative or being a dictator, that’s just to say this is what we’re about and what we hope to get accomplished in spring training.” . . . As for his rules, Farrell said he has only two: Be on time and be professional. “Being professional encompasses a number of things,” Farrell said. “That’s how you play the game, that’s how you treat the people around it, and that’s how you treat the guy dressing next to you. This game will always be about the players and yet we have to provide the boundaries in which we’re going to operate.”