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Strong first half for Ellsbury

Leads MLB in stolen bases, batting above .300


by: MIKE IVINS/BOSTON RED SOX - Boston Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury puts his potential free agency on back burner.Halfway through the 2012 season, Boston Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is in line to make eight figures next season if he keeps up his current pace.

The speedy Madras High School graduate leads Major League Baseball with 36 stolen bases, and after a relatively slow start at the plate, is hitting .305 going into the MLB All-Star Break.

Along with his deft defensive play roaming the spacious Fenway Park center field, Ellsbury should fetch more than his current one-year, $9 million next season, whether he re-ups with the Sox or enters free agency with superagent Scott Boras doing the talking.

In an interview with Boston sports radio station WEEI 93.7 FM, Ellsbury stayed the course with comments he made during spring training.

"For me, I just like to go out there and play," he said. "Every year I've basically had to play for my contract. This year is no different."

Ellsbury's production is what will land him the big – well, bigger – bucks when the season comes to an end, but having one of the most aggressive agents when it comes to contract negotiations, Boras, doesn't hurt matters.

"Ultimately we both know it's about playing, helping your team win," Ellsbury said. "Scott knows I just like to go out there and play, play hard, and get my team in the best position to win."

Ellsbury went on to say that he hasn't talked to Boras about the potential in the free agent market during the season. The MLB's stolen base leader just wants to keep his Red Sox atop the American League East, which they are at 58-39, 2 1/2 games ahead of Tampa Bay headed into the all-star break.

"If something comes up he feels is important that he needs to bring to me, we'll talk at that point," Ellsbury said, "He knows performance on the field is the most important thing."

Ian Browne, a Red Sox beat writer for MLB.com, talked with Boras about the potential of Ellsbury signing another contract with the Red Sox, rather than letting Ellsbury walk and test the free agent market at year's end.

"[Red Sox general manager] Ben [Cherington] and I work very well," Boras told Browne. He wants to focus on finishing the season, and so do we."

Ellsbury's biggest issue coming into the season wasn't if he could play, it was if he could stay healthy enough to play. He showed everyone his potential with his near-MVP 2011 season, and while he doesn't have the flashy power numbers this year, he's still one of the most effective leadoff hitters in the league.

He has played in 88 of the Red Sox's 97 games this season, and recently was held out of the first two games during a four-game set with Seattle with a sore left wrist.

When Ellsbury came back, he crushed a home run out of pitcher-friendly Safeco Field in the series finale July 11, and went 2 for 4 with two RBIs. In his return to the lineup July 10, he smacked three hits and scored two runs.

The homer extended his season-long hitting streak to 19 games, but it ended the next night in the opening game of the three-game set with Oakland.

During the final 10 games of the first half, Ellsbury hit .359 and hit two of his three home runs. He had 15 hits during the stretch.

Even though Ellsbury was left off the American League all-star team roster, it might be the best thing for him to get some rest at this point. If he keeps up this type of pace, he'll need all the rest he can get before the second half, and a pennant race, starts to heat up.



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