Jacoby Ellsbury likely to bat leadoff this season

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Jacoby Ellsbury entered spring training with a little something to prove after being limited to just 18 games last season due to fractured ribs. Fortunately for the Red Sox, he’s been the best player in camp thus far.

Ellsbury is batting .429 over his first 35 at-bats this spring, leading the team in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, total bases and runs scored.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona understandably likes what he’s seeing. He told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe this morning that Ellsbury will likely bat leadoff this season.

Some have argued that the Red Sox would be better served to use Dustin Pedroia out of the leadoff spot since he gets on base more often than Ellsbury. Under this scenario, the Red Sox would have Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz in the first five spots of the batting order with Jacoby Ellsbury functioning as a second leadoff hitter of sorts out of the No. 9 hole. Assuming the Red Sox have Ellsbury lead off most of the time, we’ll likely see Pedroia second, followed by Crawford, Gonzalez, Youkilis and Ortiz.

One thing’s for sure, you won’t find any managers who have pity for Francona. This lineup has a chance to be a juggernaut, no matter who bats where.

Report: Braves extend Kurt Suzuki

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Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.

Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.

It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.

“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”

Mikie Mahtook is likely done for the season

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Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.

This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.

With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.