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07/25/08 7:43 PM ET

For now, Ellsbury stays in leadoff spot

Manny's knee injury keeps speedy outfielder in No. 1 hole

BOSTON -- For just a few fleeting moments, slumping outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was moved from leadoff to the ninth spot in the batting order on Friday against the Yankees.

"Jacoby is going to be a leadoff hitter," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "If somebody pulls a hammy, it could be tomorrow. You know how that goes."

Ellsbury's move to the top spot came even sooner than Francona jokingly predicted. Once left fielder Manny Ramirez revealed to bench coach Brad Mills that he couldn't play on Friday night because of a sore right knee, the rest of the lineup had a domino effect that moved Ellsbury right back into the leadoff spot.

With David Ortiz returning to the lineup, Francona originally had an alignment of Dustin Pedroia leading off and Kevin Youkilis batting second. But Youkilis had to replace Ramirez in the cleanup spot, giving Ellsbury a chance to return to the spot he never actually left.

Once Ramirez does return to the lineup, Ellsbury will probably hit eighth or ninth.

The speedy rookie entered Friday night hitting .232 (19-for-82) in his last 18 games. Over his past 31 games, Ellsbury's average dipped from .289 to .262.

"In Seattle, I actually felt a lot better," Ellsbury said. "It's a tough game as it is. For me to go through it, I'm sure it will make me better because of it."

And the even-keeled Ellsbury didn't seem to have any problem with the imminent lineup switch.

"It's not really gong to affect me at all," Ellsbury said. "I'm just moving down the lineup. It's not like they're making me bat right-handed or anything. But I'm just moving down the lineup. We want to win. Maybe through the course of the game, I'll get one less at-bat."

In fact, Francona started the season with Pedroia hitting first, Youkilis batting second and Ellsbury hitting in the lower part of the order.

"He's going to be a premier leadoff hitter in the Major Leagues," said Francona. "He's going through kind of a tough time. That's just the way it is."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.