Boston in tough spot with Ellsbury

The time may soon come where the struggling Ellsbury ends up in a platoon role. John Williamson/Getty Images

Jacoby Ellsbury is a free agent after this season, and in an ideal world for him and the Boston Red Sox, Ellsbury would begin to turn around his season today, delivering many hits and home runs, fueling the team and his market value at the same time. The best-case scenario for Ellsbury and the Red Sox is for him to play so well that he puts himself in position for a big offseason payday, so well that Boston can offer him a one-year deal and set itself up for draft-pick compensation.

But if that doesn’t happen, well, it could get very complicated. Because Ellsbury is hitting .242, with a .307 OBP -- among leadoff hitters with at least 50 plate appearances in the No. 1 spot, he ranks 31st -- and if this continues, there will be a time when his interests and those of the Red Sox will diverge. It’s not going to be today, it’s not going to be tomorrow, but eventually, it will happen.

Ellsbury demonstrated how good he could be in 2011, when he racked up 83 extra-base hits, 119 runs, 105 RBIs and 39 stolen bases, finishing second to Justin Verlander in the AL MVP race. But injuries limited him to 74 games last season, and in those, he hit .271, with a .313 OBP. So what he has done at the plate in 2013 more closely resembles the player he was in 2010 and 2012 than who he was in 2011.

In a vacuum -- if his name wasn’t Jacoby Ellsbury, and he hadn’t shown a high ceiling -- he would be a candidate for a platoon arrangement, given his .578 OPS against lefties this year. He has two extra-base hits against lefties this year, after having four in 110 plate appearances last year.

The Red Sox know that Ellsbury won’t sign with them before becoming a free agent in the fall; he probably is not a part of their future. So at what point do they stop waiting for the 2011 Ellsbury and move on, to help the 2013 Red Sox as well as their own organizational development?

It’s a situation that could become difficult, because it’s obviously in Ellsbury’s best interests to play every day, to take a strong performance into his free agency, and the Red Sox would love for that to happen. But if they reach the conclusion that it’s not going to happen, it’s in the best interest of the Red Sox to play somebody else, for the sake of this year’s team and future Boston teams.

For example: Bryce Brentz, the 36th overall pick in 2010, has seven multihit games among his last 12 games in Triple-A. He’s a right-handed, power-hitting outfielder with an .836 OPS against lefties, and he is a part of Boston’s future. If the Red Sox began looking at alternatives to Ellsbury, they could use Brentz against lefties and start Shane Victorino in center field.

But part of Boston's decision-making for anything like that would have to include an assessment of how Ellsbury would react. Would it be a problem? Would it drive him? Or would it drive him away, mentally? And how important is Ellsbury’s reaction, given the fact that he’s almost certainly on his way out? Should the Red Sox explore a possible trade of the center fielder to a contender needing temporary outfield help?

None of those questions need to be asked if Ellsbury begins to play like the player he has shown he can be.

Boston manager John Farrell said Tuesday he has thought about dropping Ellsbury out of the leadoff spot, writes Gordon Edes. The Red Sox bats have been dormant.

Around the league

• Think about this: On his current pace, Mike Trout will finish this season with 191 hits, 83 walks, 93 extra-base hits, 112 runs and 121 RBIs.

Trout filled up the box score Tuesday night, becoming the youngest player in American League history to hit for the cycle after a 408-foot homer put the exclamation point on his great night. Mark Simon has a full breakdown here.

• Kevin Gausman, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, is getting the ball on Thursday.

Dan Straily seemed to get in his own way in his first starts this year, falling behind in the count. But on Tuesday, it was as if a young pitcher climbed another rung on the ladder. Straily shut down the Rangers and bested Yu Darvish.

From John Shea’s story:

Jurickson Profar was one of only two Rangers who got a single off Straily, and the pitcher picked him off. He had two three-ball counts, none after the first inning.

"I was really myself out there," Straily said. "It felt different. I had confidence to start the game. I was not going to let 'hurting myself' be what happened in the ballgame. The last few times out, I walked people, hit people. I wasn't getting hit hard. I was hurting myself. Tonight, my goal was to fill up the strike zone."

Straily was aggressive and efficient with his pitches. He struck out five, Andrus and Mitch Moreland twice, and walked nobody. He threw 88 pitches, 63 for strikes, and reached seven innings for the first time.

He said he's never been more confident as a big-leaguer.

"Any time you're a young player and not having the type of success you would like to have, yeah, you want to have one of these games where you go out and believe," Melvin said. "It would've been nice to give him three, four, five runs for a little breathing room. But who knows? Maybe that's what he needed, an outing where he had to be borderline perfect."

Max Scherzer was overpowering on Tuesday night, with the last of his 118 pitches clocked at 98 mph. He retired the last 22 batters he faced, writes Shawn Windsor.

We had Scherzer on the podcast the other day and he was funny talking about how he runs all of the Tigers’ various pools and leagues.

• On Tuesday’s podcast, there was a Don Mattingly discussion, which will continue because the Dodgers lost again, this time with Zack Greinke on the mound.

Evan Gattis: Legend. Here’s the video of his game-tying homer in the ninth.

From ESPN Stats & Information: The home run was his fourth game-tying or go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later this season (no other player has more than two). It came on a slider on the inner half, as he continued his dominance against inside pitches this season. He's hitting .354 with six homers on pitches on the inner half, .186 with three homers on the outer half.

Stephen Strasburg didn’t win, but wow, his stuff was excellent Tuesday night, especially his changeup; here’s the video.

But Washington lost again, when Pablo Sandoval basically punished a baseball, and the Nationals continue to drift in the standings. They’re just a game ahead of the Phillies. Washington and Philadelphia have this going for them in the playoff chase in the weeks ahead -- they get to play a whole bunch of games against the two worst NL teams, the Mets (when Matt Harvey doesn’t pitch) and Marlins.

• Sandoval had felt terrible before hitting the baseball into what Alex Pavlovic referred to as Bonds Territory.

From ESPN Stats & Info: Sandoval’s home run was calculated at 464 feet, the longest of his career and longest walk-off home run in MLB during the last eight seasons. It was also the second-longest home run hit in AT&T park over the last eight seasons (Mark Reynolds hit a 471-foot homer on Aug. 27, 2009).

• The Mets are 7-2 on the days when Harvey pitches, 10-24 on the days he doesn’t pitch. He goes today against the Reds.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Steve Cishek may or may not have lost his job as the Marlins’ closer.

2. Within this piece, there is word that Hiroyuki Nakajima has been changing positions from game to game.

3. Evan Grant thinks trading Jurickson Profar makes more sense than moving Ian Kinsler to the outfield.

4. Adam Lind was moved to the cleanup spot.

Dings and dents

1. Ryan Vogelsong is going to miss a couple of months, it appears.

2. Trevor Plouffe got hit in the head.

3. Nick Tepesch has a blister.

4. Jered Weaver could be back next week.

5. Rafael Betancourt could wind up on the disabled list, writes Troy Renck.

6. Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis are making progress.

7. Chris Sale was scratched.

8. For Salvador Perez, there is good news.

Monday’s games

1. The Marlins look just a little different when Jose Fernandez is not pitching.

2. Alex Cobb and Fernando Rodney somehow found a way.

3. Jose Quintana was "the man" in the White Sox's 3-1 victory over the Red Sox.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how he won:

A. Great control: 61 percent of his pitches were in the zone, his second-best rate as a starter in his career (career average: 50 percent).

B. Good fastball: Hitters were just 1-for-14 against the pitch, striking out four times. It was just the third time in his career that he allowed one or fewer hits with a minimum of 10 at-bats. He also hit 94.5 mph on the radar gun, the fastest pitch he’s thrown in his major league career.

4. Aaron Harang was rocked, writes Ryan Divish.

5. Wilin Rosario walked it off.

6. The Phillies broke out.

7. The Pirates keep getting better, this time with a lot of help from Travis Snider.

8. Mike Leake was outstanding against the Mets.

NL East

• At a time when Danny Espinosa is struggling, Anthony Rendon played second base in the minors, as Adam Kilgore writes within this piece.

Cole Hamels is refusing to speak. That’s leadership: Leave it to teammates to answer for you.

Ike Davis will stay in the majors, for now. The Mets are at a complete loss as to why he isn’t playing better.

NL Central

Matt Garza had a nice start in his first outing off the disabled list.

Adam Wainwright had a big night.

• Another rookie is set to join the St. Louis rotation.

NL West

Brandon League has struggled, but then again, so has the Dodgers’ whole bullpen.

Edinson Volquez had a tough night.

AL East

• Joe Maddon did a 180-degree turnaround on the Yunel Escobar gesture issue.

• For Mariano Rivera, all of this is worth it.

David Adams is making his mark.

AL Central

Chris Perez shut down his Twitter account.

• For the Royals: Desperate times, and a comeback.

AL West

• Yu Darvish’s response to a question about run support could not have been more perfect.

• The Astros have hired Larry Dierker as a special assistant.

Other stuff

• The whole spitting on the ball thing ended as you might have imagined it would. It’s not 1921 anymore, with pitchers working with the same baseball for most of the game. The balls are rotated out constantly.

• The kangaroo court is a fading phenomenon, writes Nick Piecoro.

• Arizona prospect Archie Bradley just keeps getting better.

Nick Blackburn was shocked by the tornado devastation in his home state.

And today will be better than yesterday.