ST. PETERSBURG -- After almost exactly three months on the disabled list, Jacoby Ellsbury was back in Boston's lineup Friday night, batting leadoff and playing center field.
To clear room on the 25-man and 40-man rosters, the Red Sox designated right-hander Justin Germano for assignment. Manager Bobby Valentine didn't know whether Ellsbury would start all three games this weekend at Tropicana Field. The 2011 American League MVP runner-up injured his right shoulder on April 13 and has been on the DL since April 14.
Valentine's only concern was how Ellsbury would handle headfirst dives, but Ellsbury said to "expect to see a normal me" on the field Friday night. He played eight rehab games, batting .290 with two doubles, a home run and four walks. He didn't anticipate any issues with his timing at the plate despite so much time off.
"I worked hard to get to this point, so I'm definitely excited," Ellsbury said. "We feel comfortable. The doctors feel like I can play. They felt confident that I should go out there and play to my abilities. Nothing should change."
"I feel good. I think I feel as good as you can coming into the ballgame. Definitely very confident, but most importantly, just excited to be out there. We're all hoping for a great second half from the team."
Ellsbury admitted it was hard to watch the team play without him, but Valentine downplayed the effect Ellsbury's absence had on the Red Sox offensively. Boston scored the second-most runs in the Majors in the first half with 432.
"We had a lot of different guys and a lot of different lineups, but we scored a lot of runs," Valentine said. "To say that we could've scored a whole lot more with all these guys in it, I'm not sure that that's the case. We played good offense in the first half of the season."
The Red Sox entered Friday's game with a .500 record and a great deal of speculation about drama in the clubhouse, but with Ellsbury back and several other injured players also on their way back, the center fielder expressed optimism about where the club is heading.
"We're getting guys back. I think guys have done a tremendous job," Ellsbury said. "We just know we're in a great position. We're looking for definitely a strong second half."