Jacoby Ellsbury is back. That’s good news for the Red Sox.
Ellsbury, who has been sidelined since Sept. 5 because of a foot injury, will need to prove over Boston’s final four games that he’s healthy. In fact, his progress could impact how Boston shapes its playoff roster.
Right now, it’s likely that the Red Sox will keep either Quintin Berry or Jackie Bradley Jr. Whichever player makes the cut would join Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp as the team’s outfielders for the ALDS. Berry and Bradley each bring something unique to the table, which means that the Red Sox’ decision won’t be an easy one.
Berry would give the Red Sox a pure base stealer. He is 22-for-22 in his career on stolen-base attempts, including 2-for-2 with the Tigers during the 2012 playoffs. His speed could be an important asset late in games, whether the scenario involves swiping a bag or attempting to score from second base on a base hit. Red Sox fans — having seen Dave Roberts impact a certain big game — certainly know the pros of carrying a player solely for his speed.
If Ellsbury is still a little banged up, though, the Red Sox could opt for a better all-around option in Bradley. While Bradley struggled at the beginning of the season, he has looked much better during his current call-up, and Boston could ultimately decide that its better off having an outfielder capable of jumping into the starting lineup on a moment’s notice rather than someone who will be saved until the later innings and perhaps never used.
The final four games could help make the decision easier, and, as mentioned, Ellsbury’s overall progress could be a factor. Plus, Shane Victorino is banged up, so his bumps and bruises are worth monitoring.