Jacoby Ellsbury Feeling ‘Fresh As Ever,’ Ready to Compete With Carl Crawford for Stolen Base Crown

Jacoby Ellsbury Feeling 'Fresh As Ever,' Ready to Compete With Carl Crawford for Stolen Base Crown FORT MYERS, Fla. — The company line in Red Sox spring training camp thus far has largely been to look past 2010, put it behind you, focus on 2011 — however you choose phrase it.

It applies not only to the team as a whole, which was disappointed in not reaching the postseason, but with so many players returning from injury, it takes on a personal feel for many in the clubhouse.

Perhaps no one is looking ahead with more determination than Jacoby Ellsbury, who arrived Wednesday morning and met with reporters.

"I've put it behind me and I'm looking forward to 2011," Ellsbury said, doing his best to brush aside a disastrous campaign in a 10-word sound bite.

Realistically, that's all he can do. Ellsbury played in just 18 games last year due to broken ribs, was publicly questioned in some circles for his toughness and criticized by others for rehabbing away from the team. It made for a whirlwind season in which he could never let his game do the talking.

For that reason, Ellsbury said he was "excited" to begin the offseason and get back to the form that saw him hit .301 and steal 70 bases in 2009. Working hard at core stability exercises, he gained a clean bill of health and does not expect to hit any more roadblocks this spring.

In fact, the time off last year, while not what he wanted, may have helped to make him a bit more spry this time around.

"I'm probably even better [than last spring], fresh as ever" he said. "I feel good. … I've been healthy for a while."

The Red Sox center fielder added that he has no fear of making that first dive or that first headfirst slide, and he's even set a personal goal for stolen bases, although he wouldn't reveal that number. One thing's for sure — he'll have competition for that title in new left fielder Carl Crawford.

The two speedsters own six of the last eight American League stolen base crowns. With a healthy Ellsbury back in the fold and Crawford due in Fort Myers any minute (position players are scheduled to report Thursday), there is excitement surrounding having two of the more dynamic base runners on one team.

Ellsbury was jokingly asked about a potential race with Crawford.

"I wouldn't bet against myself," Ellsbury said.

That line, as much as anything, signals Ellsbury's intentions in 2011.

As for the other adjustments he needs to make with Crawford in left field, Ellsbury indicated he may be able to cheat a bit more toward the triangle in center field at Fenway Park. He also knows that the leadoff spot may not necessarily always be his. Crawford, and a few others, are also options to bat first now and then.

"That's up to [manager Terry Francona]," Ellsbury said. "I just want to help the team and wherever I fall in that order, I think that's how everybody thinks. They don't really mind just as long as we get the best team on the field."

The best team will include a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury who is no longer dwelling on 2010. So far, so good.

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