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Ellsbury called up


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BOSTON -- The Red Sox have called up their top outfield prospect.


Not long after noon ET on Saturday, Jacoby Ellsbury learned the good news. The 23-year-old former Oregon State star packed his belongings and hit Interstate-95, calling family, friends and his college coach, Pat Casey, as he cruised north from Pawtucket, R.I.


The timing of the move was surprising, its consequences still not immediately clear. The one man who wasn't taken aback, it seemed, was Ellsbury himself, who learned long ago not to worry about the mechanics of an organization that has generously and speedily rewarded him.


"I didn't want to put a timeline on myself," said Ellsbury in the Red Sox clubhouse before Saturday night's game against the Rangers. "I knew that if I went out and played hard, continued to improve -- that's the biggest thing, continued to improve -- that things were going to happen."


The Red Sox made room for Ellsbury by placing reliever Joel Pineiro on the disabled list with a sprained ankle, retroactive to Thursday. They made room for Ellsbury in the starting lineup by sitting Coco Crisp, who is still nursing a bruised thumb, for another day.


Crisp hinted that Ellsbury will patrol center field in his absence not just on Saturday, but through the weekend. It certainly fits Boston's management philosophy to play the prospect when it has committed to bringing him up.


One of the game's brightest lights -- he is the newest member of the heralded Draft class of 2005 to make the Majors, after Boston's Craig Hansen, Washington's Ryan Zimmerman, Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki and Kansas City's Alex Gordon -- Ellsbury is still in the "developmental stage" of his career, according to manager Terry Francona.


But the team still believes his value as an elite defender in center, and as a raw athlete with on-base ability, can help the Red Sox win games as they head into the All-Star break.


At Triple-A Pawtucket, Ellsbury batted .277 with a .352 on-base percentage and stole 21 bases. That followed a season-opening stint at Double-A Portland, where the 2006 Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year batted .452 and got on base at a .518 clip.


"We don't want to bring him up and let him sit a whole lot," Francona said.


Ellsbury gamely fielded questions from the Boston media contingent before batting practice on Saturday, then listened as a clubhouse attendant gave him directions to the field.


He's green, with an attitude that speaks to a more polished persona. Ellsbury's talent lies in his "survival instincts," Francona said, attributing the phrase to Red Sox assistant to the general manager Allard Baird.


"I'm a pretty even-keeled person," Ellsbury said. "I don't get too high, get too low."


As for nerves?


"I had the butterflies coming up here," he said. "But once I got into a familiar setting in the locker room, they went away."


By game time, Francona hinted, remembering his Montreal Expos debut in 1981, that could change.


"At 7:05 [p.m.], his heart will be jumping out of his chest," Francona said. "No reason to get around it. Other than having children, it's probably the single most exciting moment of your life." "You only have one first time being a Major League player," the Sox skipper added. "Whether it's Opening Day or the middle of the season, he's going to have a heartbeat."



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