Red Sox’ Jacoby Ellsbury biding his time with steals

Boston Red Sox baserunner Jacoby Ellsbury takes off from first base as Daniel Nava's base hit finds the hole at second base during the third inning of a MLB spring training baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Fort Myers, Florida, March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Jacoby Ellsbury ran the bases in a spring training game against the Blue Jays on March 12. (REUTERS)
REUTERS

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jacoby Ellsbury has played in 15 spring training games for the Red Sox and has yet to attempt a stolen base.

Manager John Farrell was asked Saturday if there was a reason for that. Nine seconds passed before he gave an answer.

“No,” said Farrell. “There’s not a particular reason, no.”

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Is that unusual?

This time Farrell paused 15 seconds.

“I don’t know that it’s unusual,” he said. “I know that there’s been times that we’ve talked about certain things.”

Ellsbury has no answer for it, either.

“I wish I had one for you. I just haven’t gone,” he said after Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Pirates at JetBlue Park. “There’s really no reason for it. I still have my speed. It’ll be there when I need it.”

Farrell believes Ellsbury will be able to steal a base when the season opens April 1. There is no physical reason, he said, for the oft-injured Ellsbury not to be running.

“I think he’s a pretty adept base-stealer,” said Farrell. “I don’t think he’s lost the knack to steal bases or the reads on given pitchers.”

Ellsbury stole 120 bases from 2008-09. He has 60 in the three seasons since while getting caught 19 times. Ellsbury attempted only 17 steals over 74 games last season.

“He wasn’t the guy that stole 70 a couple of years ago,” Farrell said. “But that is strongly being encouraged. Not the number, but the approach.”

Under Farrell, the Blue Jays were fifth in the American League with 123 stolen bases last season. They were sixth in 2011 with 131.

The Red Sox stole 97 bases last season, 10th in the league.

All for one

The Sox haven’t settled on their roster yet. But they have decided that no one player will serve as the designated hitter in the absence of David Ortiz.

“We feel like this will be a rotating thing rather than one person being the regular DH,” Farrell said. “It serves a couple of benefits. You’re looking for matchups; you’re looking for a day off their feet.

“I know it’s early in the season, we’ve got off days. The physical side of it might be of less importance. But there will be a number of things factored in when we slot in the DH on a given day.”

Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Daniel Nava, and perhaps even catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia are among the players who could DH.

As for Ortiz, coming back from a strained right Achilles’ tendon and residual soreness in the area, he took batting practice in the cage again. Farrell said he hoped to see Ortiz on the field “in some capacity” before the team breaks camp next Saturday. That could be running the bases or taking BP.

Hard for Bard

Daniel Bard, who was supposed to pitch against the Pirates, was skipped after throwing 27 pitches in a minor league game Friday. He is scheduled to pitch against the Phillies Sunday.

Bard couldn’t get through an inning in the Double A game, walking two batters and hitting another. It seems likely he will start the season in the minors as his recovery from last season’s bout of wildness continues.

“There’s still some continuing work to be done,” Farrell said. “Still part of the process to get him back to the reliever that we’ve known him to be.”

Farrell wants to see more consistency from Bard, both within a game and from outing to outing. Farrell said Bard repeating his delivery and doing a better job with the first batter he sees are keys.

Some good news? Bard’s velocity is trending up.

“I don’t think it’s where it ultimately will end up, but it should continue to increase by virtue of repeating his delivery and gaining some confidence along the way,” Farrell said.

“This is a step process he’s making solid progress in.”

Back to back

The Sox played their starters Saturday and will bring the same players to Clearwater for Sunday’s game vs. the Phillies. Those players will get some at-bats in a minor league game Monday ahead of Tuesday’s day off . . . Ryan Dempster and Koji Uehara will pitch in a minor league intrasquad game Sunday . . . The Sox will bring righthander Graham Godfrey up from minor league camp to start against the Orioles Monday. The 28-year-old, obtained from Oakland in the offseason, is 1-6 with a 5.09 ERA in 10 major league appearances.