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Red Sox Notebook

Making a lasting impression

Durability now Ellsbury strength

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 15, 2011

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NEW YORK — On two occasions in the last two weeks, Jacoby Ellsbury suffered a minor injury in the course of a game. He bruised the inside of his left knee May 2 when he collided with Angels catcher Jeff Mathis, and on Friday night he twisted his right knee in the ninth inning while running the bases.

Both injuries required treatment, but Ellsbury was back in the lineup the next day. All it required yesterday was a quick call to manager Terry Francona in the morning.

“He said he was ready to go, and there’s no issues. That was good enough for me,’’ Francona said before the Red Sox defeated the Yankees, 6-0, last night.

After a 2010 season in which he was limited to 18 games because of fractured ribs, Ellsbury has become one of the most durable players on the Red Sox roster. Only he and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez have played in every game this year. Ellsbury has started all but three games.

“I think he understands by being out there, whether he’s at full strength or not, especially when he’s hitting leadoff, he can impact the game in a lot of different ways,’’ Francona said. “That’s an admirable trait.

“You probably remember how much I talked about Johnny Damon and how he did that. As a manager or a coach, you really appreciate that in players.

“Jacoby’s done a tremendous job because there are some days when he’s been a little bit beat up and that’s going to happen when your game is speed and you’re hitting walls or diving into bases. That’s going to happen from time to time.’’

Ellsbury went 2 for 4 last night to raise his average to .301. His 24 runs rank second on the team behind Gonzalez’s 25, and his 12 steals are tied for the most in the American League.

Last season, some teammates questioned Ellsbury’s toughness and commitment to the team, a subject that quickly became a hot topic in the media.

Francona believes those trials are helping to motivate Ellsbury now.

“I think it’s a priority,’’ said the manager. “I think he understands that. However you want to say it, whether he wants to prove to whoever, maybe to himself, maybe to [the media]. I think he definitely wants to be out there.’’

Enemy territory Carl Crawford had played 66 games in the Bronx and thought he knew how tough Yankees fan could be. But until he arrived as a member of the Red Sox, he had no idea.

“It was crazy,’’ Crawford said Friday night after the Sox beat the Yankees, 5-4. “I’ve never heard it so loud before. To be honest with you, it was fun.’’

Crawford said fans in left field serenaded him with a chant that can’t be published in a family newspaper.

“I think everybody out there was getting on me,’’ he said. “It was a lot different than when I came here with Tampa. They really hate the Red Sox.’’

Crawford is hitting .293 against the Yankees in New York during his career and on Friday drove in a run.

“That’s part of the reason I wanted to sign with the Red Sox, to stay in the division and keep playing games like that,’’ he said. “To me, that’s baseball. It brings out your best as a player.’’

Getting comfortable Future Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias, the 21-year-old Cuban flash, is unfailingly polite and has worked hard to master English. Before the first game of this series, he said he went to see “The Lion King’’ on Broadway when the Sox had an off day in New York Thursday.

“I enjoyed the show,’’ said Iglesias, who was a defensive replacement in the ninth last night. “I haven’t done much else here. This is only my second time in New York. I was here a year and a half ago.’’

Clubhouse leader Dustin Pedroia has taken Iglesias under his wing and had this story about his future keystone partner:

“We make him carry the beer and water on the bus. The usual rookie stuff. Nothing out of the ordinary.

“The other night when he played in the late innings, he made that great tag play in extra innings, but the guy was safe and we lost.

“I saw him back at the hotel and he asked me if I was going to go and eat and I told him I ate in the clubhouse after the game. He said he didn’t eat in the clubhouse. He told me, ‘I didn’t think I could eat because we lost.’ I said, ‘Well, just order room service,’ and he said, ‘I don’t know how.’

“So he came to my room and we ordered him a club sandwich and chicken wings and soup and cheesecake. He ate the whole thing, sitting in front of my TV, watching highlights, and he was afraid they were going to show his play and blame him for losing the game.

“I’m just trying to make him as comfortable as possible. He’s a good guy and he’s going to be fun.’’

Wheeler on call Righthanded reliever Dan Wheeler started his rehabilitation assignment with Pawtucket Thursday.

Most major leaguers want to know their schedule well in advance, and teams generally accommodate them. But Wheeler is taking a different tact. He wants to sit in the Pawtucket bullpen and wait for the phone to ring like everybody else.

“Wheels wants us to treat this like it’s regular season and not tell him,’’ Francona said. “He wants to get up like he’s supposed to. So it’s a big secret. But you can bet that he’s going to pitch pretty consistently until he’s ready to come off.’’

Wheeler pitched 1 2/3 innings last night in a home game against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, striking out three while allowing one hit. He is on the disabled list with a strained calf and is not eligible to return until Friday.

Sizzling starts Gonzalez had eight home runs and 31 RBIs in his first 38 games with the Red Sox. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only five players in team history have equaled those numbers. Manny Ramirez had 13 homers and 46 RBIs in 2001. Jimmie Foxx (11 homers, 35 RBIs in 1936), Ted Williams (8 homers and 38 RBIs as a rookie in 1939), Walt Dropo (10 homers, 34 RBIs as a rookie in 1949), and Carl Everett (13 homers and 38 RBIs in 2000) are the others. Gonzalez’s three-run blast in the seventh last night was his fourth homer in five games and eighth since May 3 . . . Struggling righthander John Lackey remains scheduled to start against Baltimore Tuesday after throwing in the bullpen.

Dan Shaughnessy of the Globe staff contributed. Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com.

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