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Pregame notes from Tropicana Field

Posted by Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff  June 16, 2011 04:32 PM

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Saturday's game between the Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers has been changed to 7:10 p.m. from 1:10 p.m. at Fenway Park to accommodate the Bruins Stanley Cup celebration parade.

The Bruins will visit Fenway on Sunday.

*Jacoby Ellsbury got a night off (at least from the starting lineup) against lefty David Price as Darnell McDonald will lead off and play centerfield. Ellsbury had an 11-game hitting streak snapped last night when he went 0-for-3 for which he was named AL Player of the Week.

"He wanted to play," Terry Francona said in explaining his decision. "We just said you know what? He's been beating himself up so just thought it would be a good night. I wanted to play Cam (Mike Cameron) and Mac. I think overall it's in his best interests. He wanted to play and I had to kind of wrestle with him a little bit."

'If you're gonna sit a guy you obviously want to do it on a night where someone like that (Price) is pitching....I was thinking about it yesterday and me and "D" (bench coach Demarlo Hale) were going back and forth and then he hit a foul ball off his shin and "D" looked up at me and said that kind of cinches it."

His durability has really stuck out.

"You wouldn't believe....he's been tremendous," Francona said. "He wants to play everyday. You can tell. He's done everything we could have asked. It's been impressive. I don't think there's any coincidence that we're playing better. He's set the tables. He's driving runs in. Playing defense. Doing everything."

Ellsbury's 24 steals are tops in the league, but he's been caught 10 times. Francona, however, doesn't want to take aggressiveness away from Ellsbury or Carl Crawford.

"We've encouraged them to go ahead and go and not look over their shoulder about getting thrown out because it's such a weapon for us that we can live with having them thrown out.," Francona said.

"As long as the time is right, and Jacoby is really good about that," Francona said.

The Red Sox would love a 75 percent success rate on steals, but understand that may be unrealistic and not necessary.

"The point of it is we just don't want guys taking off, like in spring training. If David (Ortiz) is hitting and we're running ourselves out of innings. The percentage where it's still viewed as a successful weapon has come down because offense has come down a little bit."

Francona pointed out that when Ellsbury or Crawford are on base the hitters are getting "slide-step fastball's" which are obviously less velocity than full wind-up fastballs or even fastball's out of the stretch.

*Francona hinted that more definitive word on Jonathan Papelbon's appeal of a three-game suspension should come down soon. The Sox may have already heard something. There could be a negotiation taking place to reduce the number of games.

*Francona on Johnny Damon's Hall of Fame chances:

"I'm so bad about that. I haven't paid attention nor am I qualified. I know when you guys vote it's a big deal and you do a lot of research. That wouldn't take away...I mean 3,000 hits is automatic right? I don't know where he's at. Regardless of whether he is (close) or not, I hope he is because I love him. It's hard not to like him when he's on your team.

"He's a consummate professional. There were days when he would call me in the morning and he said 'Don't not play me' today. 'I'll figure this out.' And then he'd go out there and find a way to help you win. That's hard not to like. He's in great shape. It's not just luck. I know he was blessed with the body he has - and he probably downplays it - but I know he must get after it a little bit to stay in that condition with that much mileage because he gets banged around pretty good."

*Lefty Franklin Morales will make his third appearance on rehab in Pawtucket. He'll throw up to 30 pitches.

*Bobby Jenks is still throwing flat ground trying not to "bite off more than he can chew." Francona said "he still feels it (back) with his throwing motion. We want him to be completely pain-free."


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