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Ellsbury safely returns to leadoff spot

BOSTON -- Jacoby Ellsbury could go the rest of the season without stealing another base and still have a good shot at leading the majors in stolen bases for the second time in his career, and the American League for the third time.

With 51 stolen bases, Ellsbury leads AL runner-up Rajai Davis of the Blue Jays by 11 steals, and is 12 ahead of NL leader Jean Segura (39) of the Brewers. But with nine steals in Boston’s last 22 games, Ellsbury could become just the fourth player to have three or more seasons of 60 steals since 1990, joining Kenny Lofton (4), Jose Reyes (3) and Juan Pierre (3).

But even more impressive is this: Having been caught just four times, Ellsbury has a stolen base success rate of 92.7 percent. That would be the best ever for any player stealing 50 or more bases.

Ellsbury was back in the lineup Wednesday after sitting out Tuesday’s game with a sore left thumb.

“He needed one day for the swelling in his thumb to subside,’’ manager John Farrell said. “I don’t expect it to be something he’s completely over. It’s something he has to manage and he’s doing that.’’

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia remained out of the lineup for a second straight game with a sore back and Farrell said he expected him to be out at least through Thursday.