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Red Sox notebook

Center-field platoon has been an even split

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / May 9, 2008

DETROIT - With the first quarter of the season nearly over, the Red Sox have started Coco Crisp and rookie Jacoby Ellsbury almost the same number of games in center field. Last night, Crisp made his 19th start in center field; Ellsbury has started 18 times. That might not have been the case if Crisp had not strained his right hamstring and missed eight games in mid-April; he'd started six of the previous seven games in center until he was hurt in Cleveland.

The Red Sox had the same record (11-7) for each player when he started in center entering play last night.

But there is a startling difference in production when Ellsbury has started in center. The Sox have scored 114 runs in Ellsbury's starts, an average of 6.4 runs. They've scored 68 runs in Crisp's starts, an average of 3.8 runs.

Ellsbury was at his best in the eight games he started while Crisp was hurt. In 40 plate appearances, he batted .313 (10 for 32) with a .450 on-base average, .594 slugging percentage, and 1.044 OPS. He had four extra-base hits, including two home runs, walked six times, scored 11 runs, and stole six bases.

He has not started more than two consecutive games in center since, and has cooled off in his last 10 games - half of which he has started in center - batting .256 (10 for 39) with eight runs, one extra-base hit, a double, four walks, and five stolen bases.

But he has scored two or more runs in a game eight times, including Wednesday night's 10-9 loss, and came into last night's game tied for the league lead in runs with 27.

Crisp, meanwhile, has scored just seven runs in 24 games, a total exceeded by nine teammates. In the 11 games (eight starts) he has played since coming back from injury, he was batting just .241, with a .267 on-base percentage (one walk) and just three extra-base hits and three runs.

Crisp has been most useful against lefthanders: He is batting .438 (7 for 16), with a 1.069 OPS; against righthanders, he was batting .245 with a .556 OPS.

Against lefthanders, Ellsbury is 4 for 18, a .222 average, and just one extra-base hit.

Crisp had a bunt single in his first at-bat last night, sending Jason Varitek to third and setting up Ellsbury's sacrifice fly. The bunt hit was Crisp's fifth this season. Carlos Gomez of the Twins, who hit for the cycle Wednesday, leads with nine.

It takes a thief

The Sox' success on the base paths has researchers scrambling for the record books. The club had been successful in its last 20 stolen base attempts since Julio Lugo was caught April 17. Ellsbury had two steals Wednesday, despite the presence of rocket-armed catcher Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate, and J.D. Drew had his first steal of the season, putting himself in position to score the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of what became a 10-9 loss when the Tigers scored twice in the ninth.

Ellsbury, who has had five games in which he has stolen two bases, is tied for the American League lead in stolen bases with 13, the same as Gomez, Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, and one fewer than Colorado's Willy Taveras, who leads the majors with 14. Ellsbury has been successful in all 22 of his career stolen base attempts, the longest such streak since Tim Raines went 27 straight from 1979-81.

In Wednesday night's loss, Ellsbury stole second even with the Sox three runs down, which kept the Sox out of a double play and allowed Mike Lowell the chance to hit a game-tying three-run home run. It wasn't a gamble, manager Terry Francona said, because of pitcher Armando Galarraga's slow time to the plate.

"Pudge was 1.75 [seconds] to second," Francona said. "That, even for him, is phenomenal."

And yet Ellsbury still made it, though it was a close play.

"He's doing a great job, especially for a young guy," Francona said. "He's not just fast, but smart. And I think he's confident. He has a boldness."

Ramírez resting

Manny Ramírez was given the night off. Francona cited it was a travel date and the team would be playing on turf the next four days in Minnesota. Ramírez is batting .195 (8 for 41) in his last 11 games, although he had a single, double, and home run in three games here . . . Curt Schilling played catch again yesterday and is scheduled to do so tomorrow . . . Sean Casey, serving as DH for Pawtucket, went 2 for 4 with a run, and Alex Cora, playing second base, went 1 for 4 with a run in Pawtucket's 3-2 win over the Durham Bulls yesterday. After the game, Casey had steaks catered from The Capital Grille for his teammates, according to PR man Bill Wanless. Cora is scheduled to play short and Casey first tonight, the final action for both on their rehab assignments. They are expected to be activated Sunday. Did rehabbing players show equal largesse when Francona was a player? "We didn't have rehabbing players," he said. "You either played, were sent down, or got released." Before going 1 for 5 last night, Drew was batting .340 on the road, fifth in the league . . . Kevin Youkilis hit his fifth home run in five games last night. He has 10 hits - nine for extra bases - in his last six games. He has four doubles to go along with the home runs, and has 12 RBIs.

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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