ST. PETERSBURG -- Perhaps because of how easy baseball can look for Jacoby Ellsbury when he is going well, people underestimated how challenging it would be for the center fielder to return to the Red Sox's lineup following a three-month absence.
From July 13 to Sept. 9, Ellsbury hit .265 with three homers, 15 RBIs and a .299 on-base percentage over 219 at-bats. Over the past week, he has finally looked like his old self, hitting .400 (12-for-30).
"You're basically starting over in Spring Training again," said Ellsbury, who missed 79 games after partially dislocating his right shoulder on April 13. "I had Spring Training, but when you miss that much time, it's basically an offseason. Coming back in, pitchers are in midseason, everyone's in midseason form, you've got to play catch-up. I just tried to stick with the approach and just know it's going to happen."
At last it is happening. Ellsbury hit a two-run homer on Monday, part of a three-hit night that fueled the Red Sox to a 5-2 victory over the playoff-minded Rays. Last week, he had a four-hit game in a win over the Yankees.
Ellsbury is starting to resemble the player who nearly won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2011. While it's too late to save the Red Sox this season, it should help Ellsbury's confidence going into the winter.
"Like I said, I know if I get my season's worth of at-bats, my numbers will be where they need to be," said Ellsbury. "Unfortunately, I can't get those at-bats back. Here on out the rest of the year, I'll just try to be as consistent as I can, continue to play hard, and I know good things are going to happen."