09/30/12 12:09 AM ET
Valentine an admirer of O's legend Robinson
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
"I asked him to play behind the bag and I told him I could beat out a bunt, and I tried it and he still threw me out," Valentine said. "And he was way behind the bag. He made the play coming in as well as anyone I ever saw. He was one of the kindest, most considerate people I've ever talked to, in uniform and out of uniform. Somehow, he came up with those big hits, even though his swing didn't always look that good. He found a way to hit a ball in the gap."
Many experts have cited Robinson to be the best defensive third baseman to ever play the game. Valentine does not disagree.
"A lot of third basemen prior to him had to have the 95-mile-per-hour fastball like Clete Boyer, the great third baseman of the [1960's] prior," Valentine said. "Brooks showed people that you could throw people out without having great velocity on throws."
Red Sox senior advisor to the president/CEO Charles Steinberg, who broke into baseball with the Orioles, gave a stirring speech at Robinson's dedication, at one point bringing legendary former Baltimore manager Earl Weaver to tears.
Ellsbury bats leadoff in return to lineup
BALTIMORE -- After more than a week on the shelf, Jacoby Ellsbury returned to Boston's lineup on Saturday night, batting first and playing center field.
After going 1-for-4 and scoring a run, Ellsbury declined multiple chances to reveal the nature of his injury.
"Nothing real exciting to report on. It's just good to be back," said Ellsbury.
Why doesn't he want to say what it was?
"We just kept it that way," Ellsbury said. "Yeah. I'm just happy to be back, you know?"
Ellsbury is expected to play in the season's final four games, provided there are no recurrences from the undisclosed nagging injury that kept him out of the lineup.
"It felt good. It felt good to be back," said Ellsbury. "Unfortunately we couldn't get that win, but I thought we played hard."
Why was it important for Ellsbury to play before the season ends, even though the Red Sox aren't playing for anything but pride?
"Just because he wanted to and he's a good player and it's a pennant race that teams are in and we should put our best foot forward," said Valentine.
Last year at this time, when Valentine was making evaluations for ESPN, he felt that Ellsbury deserved to be the American League's Most Valuable Player Award winner over Justin Verlander.
"You know, I based my thoughts last year on most of the statistics that were turned in at the end of the year," Valentine said. "I saw him maybe five games [live], and he played really well. I didn't see him play that way this year. He never quite hit his stride this year."
When those comments were relayed to Ellsbury after Saturday night's game, he appeared to be taken a little off-guard.
"I haven't really thought of it," Ellsbury said. "If you think of it, you can get back to me tomorrow on that one. I don't really have a response right now."
One obvious reason it was tough for Ellsbury to find a groove was his three-month, 79-game absence with a right shoulder subluxation. But it had to be more than just that.
"I don't know," Valentine said. "I've had a lot of conversations with the coaching staff about it, a few with Jacoby about it. It's just the feel. He hasn't had the feel, from what I gather."
Ellsbury feels the entire season would have played out differently if not for the shoulder separation.
"You give me the at-bats, and my numbers will be right there," Ellsbury said.
After attitude adjustment, Melancon on strong run
BALTIMORE -- Laid back by nature, Red Sox reliever Mark Melancon has found his angry side on the mound, and he thinks it's helped lead to his late-season resurgence.
"Just attitude and mentality, and pitching with a little more emotion," said Melancon. "Kind of just, I've never been a person to be angry or anything, but to pitch with kind of some ... I don't know what to call it, but a little more fiery."
In his last seven outings entering Saturday, Melancon has a 1.08 ERA, striking out 12 over 8 1/3 innings. Prior to that, his season had been an utter disappointment, as evidenced by the 7.71 ERA he produced in his first 33 games.
"I wish I could pinpoint exactly one thing. I think it was a mix of a bunch of different things," said Melancon. "Obviously my location wasn't very good. I've certainly had times where I've gotten away with those pitches and didn't feel like I got away with anything. That happens when you're not always locating. Maybe I was trying to prove something a little too early. I don't feel like I was, [but] maybe I was."
Heading into the season, the Red Sox felt Melancon could be the primary setup man. The way he's finished, that could be a realistic projection for 2013.
"It's always nice to finish strong," Melancon said. "The great part of me finishing strong now is I think it's going to propel into the offseason and work even extra hard to continue that success as opposed to putting it off and counting on it to come back.
"I think I'm going to use that to continue to go forward, and as bad as this season has been, I feel like this month has been kind of an uplifting month. I'm still excited about playing. I definitely don't want it to end right now. Normally with a season like this, you do want it to end. But my fire is burning high right now. It's going to be sad to end the season right now."