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Epstein looks to future

GM interested in Ellsbury extension

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 22, 2011

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A day after Jacoby Ellsbury hit two home runs to help beat the Orioles, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein reiterated the team’s desire to sign the 27-year-old center fielder to a long-term contract.

“I think with all of our young players that we see as core members of our organization that is something we are interested in,’’ Epstein told WEEI yesterday. “We certainly see Jacoby as that . . . It is not a secret that we have sat down and tried in the past and tried to lock Jacoby up in the past, and we will sit down in the future and try and do it again at the appropriate time.’’

There are obstacles to such a deal. The Sox have made it an organizational philosophy that long-term deals for arbitration-eligible players cover at least one year of free agency and include team options beyond that. That was the framework of the contracts signed by Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz.

Ellsbury’s agent, Scott Boras, has advised his clients against such deals in the past, believing they can gain more lucrative contracts as free agents.

“We have certain organizational standards that have to be met, and we have worked hard to keep those standards with Pedroia and Youkilis and Lester, so we’d love to one day announce that Jacoby will be with this organization for a long time,’’ Epstein said.

Ellsbury is hitting .316 with a .375 on-base percentage. His 15 home runs are a career high and he has stolen 28 bases.

Decision time Josh Reddick started in place of a healthy J.D. Drew on Wednesday, and Epstein indicated that would likely be the case moving forward. The rookie is hitting .378 with an 1.102 OPS. In 29 games, he has 13 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs.

“You can’t deny what Josh Reddick is doing and you can’t deny that he’s a different player than he’s been,’’ Epstein said. “It was simply of question of Josh, and it always has been, improving his plate discipline. His swing mechanics, going up there with a plan, working the count, putting himself in a position where he could let that explosiveness of his bat play and let his natural instincts play out there in the batter’s box.

“We’ve probably talked to Josh about it thousands of times over the years and it looks like a light has gone on for him. He’s a different guy and a really exciting piece, not for just this year but also the future. Tito [Terry Francona] makes out the lineup and I’m sure he’s going to have decisions to make on a nightly basis. I don’t want to speak for him, certainly Josh is someone who has helped us win games and you want to put him in a position to continue to do that.’’

Drew is hitting .223 and has only 11 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs over 233 at-bats.

“I don’t think you have to cast your lot on one player and completely bury another,’’ Epstein said. “When you have one player performing so well, or so hot, maybe demonstrating that a light has gone on for him, and another player who has struggled all year, it’s something you have to really massage as a manager.’’

Ortiz returns David Ortiz is set to return tonight after serving a three-game suspension. Thanks to interleague play, the All-Star break, and the suspension, he has had only 48 at-bats since June 24. Ortiz has hit .148 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in that stretch . . . Francona starts tonight’s series against the Mariners with 998 victories. Only 56 managers have won 1,000 games.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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