CHICAGO — Red Sox manager John Farrell acknowledged Tuesday he considered dropping Jacoby Ellsbury out of the leadoff spot. But the struggling center fielder is staying put for now.
Ellsbury entered Tuesday hitting .241 with a .303 on-base percentage. That places him among the worst leadoff hitters in the game.
“We’re sticking with him to hopefully give him the opportunity to come out of the situation he’s in right now,” Farrell said. “I can say this: Whether he’s hitting first or somewhere else in the lineup, there’s still things he has to address.”
Ellsbury grounded to second base four times Monday night, part of a season-long trend of pulling the ball on the ground. He was 1 for 3 Tuesday in the Red Sox’ 3-1 loss to the White Sox, which left him 4 for 27 on the road trip.
“It comes down to timing,” Farrell said. “Timing at the plate. Whether it’s four groundballs to second base or whether it’s three line drives. He’s in a situation where he’s working to do what he can to get out of this and we’re working with him.”
Among the 18 leadoff hitters with a qualifying number of plate appearances, Ellsbury began the night with the second-lowest batting average, second-lowest OPS (.638), and fourth-lowest on-base percentage.
Since his stellar 2011 season, Ellsbury has hit .259 with a .665 OPS. He went into Tuesday’s game with five home runs in his last 494 at-bats, one this season.
Farrell said Ellsbury is not “free of mind.” The center fielder will be a free agent at the end of the season and continued poor play could cost him millions.
“I wouldn’t say that’s the issue [with] what he’s dealing with right now. I also know that he’s human and he understands where he’s at in his career and what’s ahead of him,” Farrell said. “The point that we continually try to make is that the routine of today is the most important point.”
At some point, having the player with such a low on-base percentage hitting first becomes untenable.
“Those thoughts and discussions are ongoing,” Farrell said.
Shane Victorino, who strained his left hamstring Monday, did not play. It was the 12th game he has missed this season because of injury.
“We’ve got to be sure that he’s symptom-free when we do put him back on the field,” Farrell said. “Right now, we still think this is a short-term thing. But we’ve got to let this continue to subside.”
Farrell said the organization has discussed whether it would make sense to put Victorino on the disabled list so he can get fully healthy. He is still receiving treatment for a back injury that caused him to miss 11 games.
“I can’t say that we’ve eliminated that thought. But we’re not any closer than we were last night to make a roster move at this point,” Farrell said.
Victorino’s absence is a contributing factor to Ellsbury remaining at the top of the order.
“At this point, yes, somewhat,” Farrell acknowledged. “Trying to keep some element of speed at the top of the order. But that’s not the overriding thing.”
Two of the best starters in the American League were scheduled to meet in the series finale on Wednesday. But only Clay Buchholz will make the game. White Sox ace Chris Sale was scratched because of shoulder tendinitis. Chicago will go with lefthander Hector Santiago instead.
Sale is 5-2 with a 2.53 earned run average. The lefthander has faced the Red Sox five times, all in relief, and pitched 5⅔ scoreless innings.
Santiago (1-2, 2.78) has faced the Red Sox once in his career, throwing two innings of relief last July 18 and giving up two runs.
First at third
Jose Iglesias played nine innings at third base on Tuesday for Triple A Pawtucket in a 9-8 victory against Indianapolis. He committed an error.
The Sox are preparing Iglesias for use as a utility infielder should a need arise. Pedro Ciriaco, who has the job now, has played poorly in the field and is hitting .184.
“It’s in the event that something might happen to someone,” Farrell said. “Just to prepare as best we can if [Iglesias] comes to us in a role that might call on the versatility.”
Iglesias has played only shortstop since signing with the Red Sox in 2009. The Sox will try him at second base, too. Farrell said no plans are in place in terms of how many games Iglesias would play those positions.
“We still view him as an everyday shortstop,” Farrell said. “In the interim, we’re trying to prepare for the potential of him coming and filling that role.”
Improvement for Ross
David Ross, who is on the disabled list with a concussion, had a full day of working out in Boston. He’ll play in a rehab game or two this weekend before he is activated . . . Daniel Bard has not pitched for Double A Portland since May 15. He remains on the roster but has been shut down and is throwing in the bullpen to try and solve his ongoing control problems. Farrell said Bard would not get into a game until he shows improvement throwing on the side . . . The Red Sox are sending Jason Varitek as their representative to the amateur draft on June 6 in Secaucus, N.J. The Sox have the seventh overall pick. Varitek, a special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington, has helped scout players near his home in Georgia in advance of the draft.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.