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 lingering 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 and that Jacoby’s had 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 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. He seems sure to enter the market.
Boras outlined what his major selling points will be, centering on Ellsbury being able to affect 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 upcoming 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, 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 outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. The agent mocked the idea that Bradley and Ellsbury couldn’t play together.
“I’m sure in the Red Sox board room [general manager Ben Cherington] 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.”
When he was named to the National League All-Star team over the weekend, Mark Melancon celebrated by renting a minivan.
The Pittsburgh Pirates reliever was looking for a flight to New York and decided to take the six-hour drive instead with his wife, daughter, and parents along for the ride.
“What a great experience,” he said. “It was fun just to talk about everything and celebrate with people who are important to me.”
Melancon had a 6.20 earned run average in 41 appearances for the Red Sox in 2012. He was one of the players traded to Pittsburgh in the Joel Hanrahan deal and has flourished with the Pirates.
Melancon has a 0.81 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in 45 games for Pittsburgh. In 44⅓ innings he has struck out 46 and walked four.
Melancon has been with four teams in his five-year career. Because he pitched well for the Astros and Pirates and not well for the Red Sox, he is tagged with the label of being better off in a small market with less pressure.
“Honestly, the market didn’t really matter,” Melancon said. “It was just going through some mechanical issues and some different stuff. That’s not even in the realm of what was going on.”
Melancon pitched only four games for the Red Sox before he was sent to Triple A Pawtucket for nearly two months. When he returned, he was rarely trusted with high-leverage opportunities by former manager Bobby Valentine.
“It makes all the difference in the world when a team has confidence in you,” Melancon said. “But I don’t regret my experience in Boston.”
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is back in the All-Star game after a two-year absence. “Every year I just try to help our team win games. That’s my job. Try to be healthy and be out there and play good defense. It’s an honor to be here,” he said. “There’s a lot of great second basemen in the American League. It’s an honor to be here and I’m happy about it.” . . . Melancon is one of four former Red Sox players in the game. Bartolo Colon, Justin Masterson, and Marco Scutaro are the others . . . Clay Buchholz, who is on the AL team but not able to pitch because of injury, has a busy week. He and his wife Lindsay will host the inaugural Buchholz Bowl on Thursday at Lucky Strike in Boston. The sold-out event will benefit children’s charities.