Jacoby Ellsbury is still the Red Sox’ leadoff hitter — for now.
John Farrell said on WEEI’s Salk and Holley on Wednesday that Ellsbury will continue to lead off “for the immediate time, right now,” but the Red Sox skipper didn’t rule out making a change if the outfielder continues to struggle at the plate.
“I’m not going to say that that would be the case forever,” Farrell said of Ellsbury leading off. “But our goal is to get him going — it’s happened to him before where he was dropped down in the order to get his legs back underneath him and get him going. That has certainly not been ruled out. For now, he still remains in that leadoff spot.”
Ellsbury is hitting just .242 in 45 games this season, and his on-base percentage sits at .307. He’s been especially inconsistent in May, hitting .185 with a .267 on-base percentage in 19 games this month.
Since Ellsbury isn’t getting on base, there is a growing sense that Farrell could eventually make some lineup changes. Ellsbury was dropped down in the order back in 2009 when Terry Francona was Boston’s manager, and it sparked the outfielder, so perhaps a similar move could pay dividends this time around. A lot goes into such a decision, though.
“What I don’t want to do — and I mentioned this a number of times — I don’t want to go through a complete revamping, turning the lineup upside down and shifting two or three guys to the front of the order and replacing those guys in that six or seven slot area,” Farrell said. “Again, trying to get the highest on-base guys at the top of the order based on matchups as to how guys are going. Some people might point to Daniel Nava as a primary one- or two-hole hitter, but he’s done such a good job for us in that six-hole of driving in runs and hitting for power, plus getting on base. … It’s not just, ‘Hey, take this guy out of the slot and he becomes a different hitter just because we get him from the one-hole to the six- or seven-hole.’”
Farrell said that video shows Ellsbury has the same swing mechanics now that he had during his monster 2011 season. That seems to suggest that some thoughts — whether it be frustration or something else — could be creeping in. Farrell doesn’t think the struggles have anything to do with the 29-year-old’s looming free agency, though.
“There’s some inconsistency in timing, no doubt about it,” Farrell said. “It’s encouraging that last night, he gets on two times, one by a walk and one by a base hit up the middle. He’s working with [hitting coach] Greg Colbrunn, obviously — early work, extra BP. I don’t necessarily think … I know a lot of people are going to say ‘Well, he’s got pending free agency, and that’s the elephant in the room that’s weighing him down.’ I don’t get that sense. I think it’s human nature [to look at] what lies ahead. But Jake has always been a guy that, when adjustments are recommended, they take some time for him to incorporate, and we’re going through that right now.”
Ellsbury is slated to become a free agent after this season. He figures to be in line for a nice payday, but his stock is certainly dropping with each subpar plate appearance.