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Ellsbury returns, expected to spark offense

Outfielder 'rusty' but singles in victory

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 14, 2012
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jacoby Ellsbury returned to the Red Sox on Friday night after a 90-day absence due to a partially dislocated right shoulder.

He was 1 for 5 with a single in a 3-1 victory against the Rays.

Ellsbury, understandably, looked rusty. He struck out twice and grounded into a double play.

Ellsbury was injured April 13 when he slid into Tampa Bay shortstop Reid Brignac trying to break up a double play. Brignac landed on Ellsbury, causing the injury.

The initial hope was that Ellsbury would be out 6-8 weeks. But it proved to be three months.

“We feel comfortable,” Ellsbury said before the game. “The doctors cleared me to play. They feel confident I should go out there and, you know, play to my abilities. Let my teammates see, the fans see. Nothing should change.”

Ellsbury was second in the American League MVP voting last season, hitting .321 with 46 doubles, 32 home runs, 105 RBIs, and 39 steals. The return of their leadoff hitter should provide a spark to the Red Sox offense.

Ellsbury played in eight minor league rehabilitation games, but had frequent days off. It’s uncertain whether he will be able to play every day.

“We’ll just take it day by day. I don’t have a long-term plan. We obviously have to see how he feels,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “He looks great.”

Valentine said the only concern he has with Ellsbury would be his diving.

Ellsbury would not address that issue beyond saying he felt good.

“It feels good to be back in the lineup. I worked hard to get back to this point,” Ellsbury said. “Definitely excited . . . We have a great opportunity. We’re definitely in striking distance. Lot of games left and there’s a lot of great ball players on the team. We’re excited about the opportunity ahead of us.”

Gonzalez scratched

Adrian Gonzalez was in the original lineup, but was scratched about an hour before the first pitch. The first baseman was pulled from Sunday’s game with a persistent cough and still isn’t feeling quite right according to Valentine.

Valentine said Gonzalez was not moving well during batting practice and appeared to have a stiff back.

“I want to give him an extra day,” he said.

Letter from Lucchino

Team president Larry Lucchino sent a letter to season ticket-holders that acknowledged the club’s struggles but took a positive tone.

“Our play on the field has at times tested the mettle of the faithful. It could be maddening one day, enthralling the next day,” he wrote.

After praising several players, the missive closed by saying the team would try to improve before the trade deadline and hadn’t given up on the season.

“If someone can further help this club, and if the deal makes sense, we will be aggressive. We want to play October baseball this year,” he said.

Lucchino mentioned 10 players and general manager Ben Cherington. Curiously, Valentine was not mentioned.

Buchholz returns

Clay Buchholz will be activated off the disabled list before Saturday night’s game. He has been out since June 20 with a stomach ailment that led to internal bleeding. Buchholz (8-2, 5.53) threw 43 pitches for Triple A Pawtucket on Sunday and Valentine believes he should be able to throw 90 against the Rays. “I’m anxious to see him come back. He’s rested and seems to be hungry,” Valentine said.

Carl Crawford went 0 for 4 in his latest rehab outing with Pawtucket, an 8-2 loss to Buffalo. Crawford walked once, struck out once, and drove in a ninth-inning run with a groundout. Reliever Daniel Bard pitched the eighth and had another rough outing. Bard walked two, struck out one, threw two wild pitches, and allowed a run. He only threw 10 of 22 pitches for strikes and his ERA, after 14 outings, stands at 8.22.

Westmoreland’s surgery

Ryan Westmoreland had surgery in Phoenix for a complication of a cavernous malformation in his brain.

According to the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, the surgery by Dr. Robert Spetzler was a success and Westmoreland is “doing well.”

Westmoreland, a 22-year-old from Portsmouth, R.I., had surgery in 2010 for the malformation, which is an unusual growth of blood vessels in the brain. He recovered to the point of being able to face live batting practice and DH in a scrimmage game in the Dominican Republic.

Draft picks sign

The Red Sox signed four draft picks before Monday’s deadline. Righthanders Stephen Williams (16th round) and Willie Ethington (17th round) agreed to deals along with outfielders Brandon Magee (23d round) and OF Khiry Cooper (25th round) of Nebraska. Magee also played linebacker at Arizona State and Cooper was a receiver at Nebraska. The Red Sox signed 15 of their first 16 picks and 25 players overall. The highest drafted player not to sign was 11th-rounder Jamal Martin, an outfielder. He is going to Florida State . . . To make room for Ellsbury on the 25- and 40-man rosters, righthander Justin Germano was designated for assignment. Germano appeared in one game, throwing 5 scoreless innings in the first game of last Saturday’s doubleheader against the Yankees.

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

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