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Thursday, August 19, 2010
No fracture to Ellsbury's spirit

By Gordon Edes
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- You ask Jacoby Ellsbury if he knows any luck other than bad luck, and he tells you he has just come back from visiting with Jimmy Fund kids. Self-pity is not in play.

In its place is a determination to move beyond this lost season, a plan in motion to return with body and soul intact.

"I know what's going on,'' the 26-year-old outfielder said of a fractured rib that has sent him to the disabled list for a third time this year, quite likely for the rest of the season. "I know how to take care of it. I just need rest, that's all.

Dobbs I'll do everything I can to heal as fast as possible and come back, but I've got to listen to the doctors. That's where we're at.

-- Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury

"I'm motivated. I'll be back, back better than ever," he said. "That's the mentality I think you've got to have, and be better because of it.''

Of this, you can be certain. It is difficult to conceive of circumstances that will compel Ellsbury to return before he's fully healed. He's been down that road twice this season. He came back too soon the first time because of a fractured rib that had gone undetected, he has said before, by the Boston Red Sox's medical staff. He came back a second time because, well, he felt the pressure was building on him to come back and he wanted to help, only to rebreak the rib in his back when he collided Friday with Texas pitcher Tommy Hunter.

He knew immediately, he said, that the bone had not held up.

"I just have to let it rest and let it heal,'' he said. "Once I let it heal, there will be no ill effects. There should be no issue down the road at all. The doctors have said, with rest, I'll be 100 percent. I won't feel any aches.''

After Ellsbury went on the DL a second time this season in late May, after the doctor he'd consulted for a second opinion, Lewis Yocum, discovered a fifth fractured rib sustained in the April 11 collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre, Ellsbury took the unusual step of rehabbing in Arizona instead of with the club. He did so, both he and the club have said, with the team's blessing. But it seems clear that some trust issues had arisen between the player, his agent, Scott Boras, and the team's medical staff.

This time, Ellsbury said, he will "probably" remain in Boston to rehab. Yocum and the Sox's medical staff are in regular consultation about his program.

"I'm pretty sure I'm going to stay here,'' he said.

Jacoby Ellsbury
"The team, they know how hard I worked,'' Jacoby Ellsbury said when asked if he had concerns about how his injuries have impacted his standing with the club. "That's never even been a question."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said earlier this week that the expectation is that Ellsbury will need four to six weeks to heal. Four weeks, and the season will be in its final two weeks. Six weeks, and the Sox will be down to their final weekend. Is Ellsbury holding out hope of returning this season?

"I'll do everything I can to heal as fast as possible and come back,'' he said, "but I've got to listen to the doctors. That's where we're at.''

Ellsbury has played in just 18 games this season, batting .192, a frustrating encore to last season, in which he batted .301 for the first time in his career and led the majors with 70 stolen bases.

He has endured a summer of second-guessing from what Francona referred to as "tough guys" in the media, who turned Ellsbury's lengthy recovery into a referendum on whether he was "soft." His critics essentially ignored his explanation of how playing with the undetected fracture aggravated the condition, as well as created additional physical issues, including a strained back muscle and nerve damage.

Both general manager Theo Epstein and agent Boras have insisted that the team's attitude toward Ellsbury has remained unchanged.

"The team, they know how hard I worked,'' Ellsbury said Thursday when asked if he had concerns about how his injuries have impacted his standing with the club. "That's never even been a question.

"It's kind of sad I've had to answer questions about that, because they never said that. The team's never said that. I've never said that. You see how I play. There're no words needed to describe it.

"It's sad that I've had to defend myself.''

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.