Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cameron-Ellsbury alignment still TBD

Even during the regular season, Terry Francona is loath to divulge his starting lineup for a game until he absolutely has to.

The Red Sox manager wasn't about to divulge his starting lineup for Opening Day in December.

New acquisition Mike Cameron is a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder whose reputation only is underscored by advanced fielding metrics. Jacoby Ellsbury, on the other hand, is a rising star who appears to have all the physical tools to play a Cameron-esque center field. Defensive metrics didn't hold him in high esteem last season, but it's not hard to imagine a leap forward as his reads and routes improve.

Francona, general manager Theo Epstein and bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who doubles as the Red Sox outfield instructor, will have a decision to make about who plays center field.

That decision, Francona said, hasn't yet been made.

"What we need to do -- and I've already talked to Cam about this -- is, in the next week or so, I need to sit down with Theo, Mike, Jacoby and probably DeMarlo and figure out what's in our best interest," Francona said. "I need to talk to everybody first. It's been kind of a whirlwind week for everybody. We'll sit down and try to put the right pieces in the right place. I have some ideas on it, but I want to talk to everybody first."

Cameron hasn't played a corner outfield spot since he played right field with the Mets in 2005, giving way to Carlos Beltran. Cameron has played all of 9 2/3 innings in left field in his major-league career and hasn't made an appeared out there since 2000.

Ellsbury, on the other hand, made 36 starts and played almost 350 innings in left field as part of a time-sharing arrangement with Coco Crisp two seasons ago.

But if the Red Sox see Ellsbury as their center fielder of the future -- something that's a likelihood but no lock, especially considering what the fielding metrics say and who his agent is -- they might be better off playing Ellsbury full-time in center field to accelerate his learning curve.

Cameron, for his part, expressed no reluctance about playing left field for the Red Sox. He did not, however, shy away from his confidence in his ability to play center.

"I think I've played Gold Glove-caliber center field my whole career," he said. "I just don't get a chance to be recognized for it. But the numbers speak for themselves. I still feel that I'm able to move around pretty good, and I play probably one of the better center fields this year than I've played in a long time."

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