When Jacoby Ellsbury met with the media this weekend in Toronto, the scribbled notepads and formulaic presentation suggested it was an orchestrated event, especially given the timing — in a lot of ways it served as a response to the critical words by Kevin Youkilis one day earlier.
While some may wonder if this back-and-forth has a chance to create disharmony in a clubhouse that has had little of it, the club — which was called out by Ellsbury for its handling of his rib injuries — should be able to find a positive outcome.
After five weeks in Arizona working out under somewhat mysterious circumstances, Ellsbury is finally making his presence felt for the Red Sox. In whatever form that comes, it’s not a bad thing.
That session with reporters is the start of Ellsbury’s road back. He aired his grievances, responded to criticisms that he lacked toughness and will now set off to begin a rehab stint with the team’s Gulf Coast League affiliate.
Perhaps those in the camp of Youkilis, those questioning why Ellsbury was not with the team during his recovery, might not take that as a very significant development, given that the team has gone 27-16 since Ellsbury left the lineup for the second time in late May. Others may wonder how long the rehab will take.
But this is a team that still has a hill to climb if it wants to make the playoffs. The Red Sox are in third place at the All-Star break for the first time since 2000. They are five games out in the American League East, 2-5 in their last seven games, have two 10-game road trips in the next month and have shown some small signs of their many injuries taking effect.
Essentially, while the Sox are very good, they will need an energy boost at some point in the second half of the season. During the dog days, everyone does. That’s where Ellsbury may come into play.
If anything, the events in Toronto brought an increased amount of attention on Ellsbury. When he does have a healthy return, the 26-year-old will have even more sets of eyes watching his every move to see if, how and to what extent he either messes with the team chemistry that has been developed in his absence, or transforms a good team and makes it great.
Given that increased scrutiny, he will be motivated. If he is motivated, he should produce. If he produces, the events of the past month, culminating in an uncomfortable weekend in Toronto, will be nothing more than water under the bridge.
Remember, this is a guy that many fans did not want to move to left field for fear that it would stunt his growth as a player. That was a long-term wish. It was his career, not just 2010, that many were worried about.
Now, several of those same people are wondering why Ellsbury hasn’t rushed back from a serious injury before the All-Star break to join a team that has the third-best record in the major leagues and has never really entered a moment of desperation.
Between his agent, the Red Sox and those fans, Ellsbury has heard a lot of voices in the last year or so, and likely taken a ton of advice. Even if some saw his media session in Toronto as a bit awkward, it’s refreshing to finally see him be the voice, the presence.
At some point, the team may need that presence even more.