That’s what Chad Epperson felt about the way Jacoby Ellisbury approached his at-bats during Saturday night’s rehab game for the Pawtucket Red Sox against the Syracuse Chiefs, which the PawSox won,
What made Epperson’s assessment important was the fact Ellsbury has been on Boston’s disabled list since April 14 after suffering a subluxation of his right shoulder during the team’s home opener versus Tampa Bay.
“He didn’t show any hesitation with that,” said Epperson, Boston’s minor league catching instructor who’s filling in for manager Arnie Beyler – a member of the staff for Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City. “That was something you look for. I didn’t see him baby-sit it at all throughout the approach.”
Ellsbury, who batted leadoff and played center field, was injured when he tried to break up a double play at second base and collided with Rays’ second baseman Reid Brignac. He hit .192 in Boston’s first seven games before he was
injured and has missed 78 games including Saturday’s day-night doubleheader against the Yankees.
“It’s one thing to take BP and hit off a tee but you need to get back in the game and play,” said Ellisbury who began a 20-day rehab assignment on June 29. “That’s the biggest thing in terms of being game-ready for the big league club. “This is my third rehab game – two at Double-A and one here – so I’m just getting used to the timing, getting reads in the outfield and running the bases. Just the little things you have to do to be a good baseball player. It’s nice to get out there and get some repetitions.”
Ellsbury was 0-for-4 and failed to hit the ball out of the infield in each at-bat. He faced right-hander Tanner Roark in his first three ABs and grounded out to first base on a 1-2 pitch after fouling two pitches down the left-field line. With one out and a runner on first, Ellsbury looked at a 1-2 pitch that clipped the inside corner.
Ellsbury grounded out to second on a 1-0 pitch in the fifth but in the seventh he missed a golden opportunity to break a 2-2 tie and give Pawtucket the lead. Right-hander Hassan Pena replaced Roark with the bases loaded and nobody out. Ellsbury worked the count full, and after fouling off two pitches, fouled out to third base.
“I thought I took some good swings on balls that I felt I should have put in play before that,” Ellsbury said of his last at-bat. “To me, you’re trying to get that run in. That’s part of the process of getting into situational hitting … trying to drive the ball to the outfield and take the lead in that situation.”
Because Ellsbury has been sidelined for an extensive period of time, he can’t underestimate the importance of playing in rehab games. “That’s what you use these games for – to work out everything,” he said. “When you’ve been out for an extended period of time, you need a few games. Basically, I’m starting spring training over so we’re trying to cram 1 ½ months into a few games.
“But everything’s come along nice. I thought I was on some balls and just fouled them back. But the last couple days have been a step in the right direction.”