NEW YORK — Scott Boras, the agent for Jacoby Ellsbury, said Monday that he expects big things from the Red Sox center fielder over the rest of the season.
Ellsbury, Boras said, was still getting over a shoulder injury when the season started and that caused him to get off to a slow start.
Ellsbury partially dislocated his right shoulder early in the 2012 season when he slid into second base and Tampa Bay’s Reid Brignac landed on him. He was on the disabled list for three months.
“Last year he came back early and played. But his shoulder strength was not there,” Boras said.
Ellsbury did not play well after returning in 2012 and that continued into this season. He hit .241 with a .303 on-base percentage over the first 44 games of the season with 12 extra-base hits and 13 stolen bases.
In the 44 games since, Ellsbury has hit .371 with a .433 on-base percentage, 19 extra-base hits and 23 stolen bases.
"I’m starting to see where this is starting to turn and he’s starting to drive the ball with authority to the gap, the opposite way. That shoulder’s getting stronger as we go,” Boras said.
Ellsbury did not make the American League All-Star team. But Boras, who was at Citi Field tending to some other clients, was happy to discuss his progress.
“He’s always been a tremendously strong, elite athlete as far as running, quick twitch, first step in the outfield. He’s just a rare player,” Boras said. “With each month of this season, his batting averages are going up, his numbers are there. His on-base percentage is really high.
“It’s no secret why the Red Sox are where they are that Jacoby’s has a big part of it.”
Boras said the early season struggles were related to Ellsbury still refining his swing.
“As the strength started coming, he’s now made the adjustment to understand more about that he does have that strength. Now he’s starting to certainly let the ball get deeper. I can see more power and lift coming to him,” Boras said. “He understands the mental side of it, too. He’s now back to being healthy.”
Ellsbury will be a free agent at the end of the season and has steadfastly refused any attempt by the Red Sox to sign an extension. The sides have agreed not to talk until after the season.
"[Sox general manager] Ben [Cherington] and I work together very well," Boras said. "He wants to focus on finishing the season and so do we."
Boras outlined what his major selling points will be. They center on Ellsbury being able to impact a team’s run differential offensively and defensively.
That kind of athletic player, Boras said, will be desirable given the lack of sluggers in the free agent class.
“It’s very hard to have those kind of players that can get on base and score runs and advance themselves on base. That value is, I think, is going to really, really go up in this game because of the lack of power,” Boras said.
Versatility aside, Ellsbury’s diminished power is an issue. He hit 32 home runs in 2011 but has hit only seven in 680 at-bats since.
But Boras believes he can sell the possibility of power.
“The main issue is that most players who are of Jacoby’s type, it’s never there. They’re four or five home run guys. With Jacoby, you know it’s there. There may be years that he hits 20 home runs. There may be another year that he hits 30. There may be years when he hits 10,” he said.
“But what you’re really paying him for is the ability to score runs and the ability to get on base and the ability to drive up the run difference.”
Boras also represents Red Sox outfield prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. He mocked the idea that Bradley and Ellsbury couldn’t play together.
“I’m sure in the Red Sox board room Ben is sitting there going, ‘Wow, We just can’t have Jackie and Jacoby and [Shane] Victorino in that outfield. They would just be too good defensively. They would just provide us too much production and speed. That would be such a horrible problem for us.’ ”
Boras reminded reporters that Ellsbury’s only problem has been on-field collisions with other players that led to injury.
Ellsbury fractured several ribs in 2010 when he tumbled over Adrian Beltre then had the incident with Brignac.
“Remember, Jacoby Ellsbury is a very durable player,” Boras said. “He just has to make sure that people don’t run into him.”