Sidelined since April 13 with a subluxed shoulder, the Red Sox outfielder bolstered the team’s lineup with his presence in Friday’s 3-1 win and led the game off against Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson.
After recording outs in each of his first three at-bats, Ellsbury delivered a single in the seventh inning. He finished the game 1-for-5, an inauspicious outing for the 2011 American League MVP runner-up.
“I feel good, I think I feel as good as you can coming into the ballgame,” Ellsbury told reporters in St. Petersburg before the game. “Definitely very confident, but most importantly, just excited to be out there. We’re all hoping for a great second half from the team.”
A three-month absence presents some notable challenges. As a result of the long drought against major league pitching, Ellsbury showed signs of rust –– in terms of timing –– in his at-bats against Hellickson.
In his first go-around, Ellsbury flew out to left field on four pitches. The next time, the 28-year-old struck out on a 79 mph curveball, which came after Ellsbury was frozen by two fastballs from Hellickson.
By the fifth inning, Ellsbury took an aggressive approach at the plate, swinging at Hellickson’s changeup. In the ninth, he failed to catch up to Jake McGee‘s heaters, considering the reliever flummoxed Ellsbury with 96-plus mph gas while striking the outfielder out.
Despite belting a hit, the outfielder will likely need a few more games to improving his timing against pitchers. Either way, his speed is a welcome addition to the top of the lineup and in center field.
Halfway through the season, Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles owns the team lead in steals with nine. As Ellsbury regains his form, he’ll also be poised to threaten opponents with his penchant for swiping bases.