September 18, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (2) hits an RBI single in the fifth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Not So Fast My Friends

Yes, I know The Phenom was 3 for 5 with a stolen base and three runs scored today in an otherwise uneventful Red Sox Grapefruit League win, this time 16-6 over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  I’m quite sure he was in the middle of all the action among the 14 hits and 15 walks allowed by Pirates pitching.

February 28, 2013; Bradenton, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. (74) works out prior to the game against the Boston Red Sox at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody can deny that there has been a ton of hubbub so far this winter surrounding top prospect Jackie Bradley, Jr., who has gotten off to a hot start in spring training.   But when the excitement eventually tamps down Sox fans should remember that the team already has a center fielder, and a pretty good one, in Jacoby Ellsbury.

So even though Bradley was again outstanding and is trying to play his way into the opening day lineup, just realize that if the Sox are going to be close to contention this season Ellsbury must be healthy, productive and a big part of the solution.

Bradley is going to have ample opportunity to show what he can do at Fenway, probably as soon as next season if, as expected, Ellsbury takes the big bucks and leaves town after this season.

The bottom line is this is a contract year for Ellsbury.  It is in his best interest to stay healthy and productive.  Every day he isn’t he is costing himself money on the open market.  I have to believe Ellsbury will be on the field as much as possible this season.

Although it will be hard to match the MVP-like numbers from 2011, everyone knows Ellsbury is capable of a monster year in his walk year.  Why shouldn’t the Red Sox be the ones to benefit from this?

I guarantee that is likely the thought process of Red Sox management as they watch the Ellsbury-Bradley scenario unfold in camp.

To those who think Ellsbury is traded before opening day because Bradley is flashing five tools, I say nonsense.  John Farrell has very few lineup slots where he can pencil in a guy’s name and not have to think twice.  Ellsbury is one of those names along with Pedroia, Middlebrooks and (hopefully) Ortiz.

Those guys have to be sure bets if the Sox are going to be significantly better than 2012.  The idea of trading one of them before the season even starts is ludicrous.  I’d be stunned if Ellsbury was moved before July.  The Sox would have to be overwhelmed by another team’s offer and I don’t see that happening this early in the calendar.

Bradley, no matter how great his tools and make up, has never played in a regular season major league game.  I don’t think the Red Sox would take such a risk with an unproven player out of the gate.  He’s a rookie and at some point pitchers will adjust and he will struggle mightly.  Yes, it would be great to have Bradley force his way on to the roster right now but to expect him to be the next Mike Trout might be asking a bit much.

Heck, even the Angels started last season with Trout in the minors before recalling him in late April to replace the washed up Bobby Abreu.  Ellsbury is far from washed up.

So before we say goodbye to a key player like Ellsbury before the season even starts, everybody just take a deep breath and chill.  I’m as excited as anyone about Bradley, but this team needs Ellsbury too.  Everything will work itself out in due time.

Tags: Boston Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury

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