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Ellsbury relishes Futures stage

Ellsbury relishes Futures stage

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Jacoby Ellsbury was on his way back to Triple-A after six exhilarating days with the Red Sox. And as he boarded a plane on Friday to meet up with his Pawtucket teammates for a doubleheader at Rochester, Ellsbury got the news that he'd be making a much lengthier journey later in the weekend.

After being on the original Futures Game roster and then taken off of it because of his temporary status as a Major Leaguer, the one plus to Ellsbury getting sent back down to Triple-A was that he was once again eligible to participate in Sunday's big stage for top prospects at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

"My agent called the Red Sox to verify that I could participate in the game and the good news was that I can, so I'm excited about it," said Ellsbury. "It means a lot, especially to play with these guys. A lot of guys here you'll see in the big leagues here in the near future. These are the guys you hear about, and talk about so I'm very excited to be here."

The speedy center fielder started in left field for the U.S. Team, going 0-for-4.

From Pawtucket to Fenway Park to Rochester to San Francisco all in a span of eight days. As for getting some rest, Ellsbury will catch up on that later.

"I'd say going on adrenaline," said Ellsbury. "I'm happy the All-Star break is coming up here. It will be nice to have three days off and just relax."

And the other perk for Ellsbury coming out West for the festivities was that his family, which couldn't make it from Oregon to Boston last week, gathered in the stands to watch him play on Sunday.

"This is the first time they've seen me in a big-league ballpark and it's the first time my mom has seen me play professionally," Ellsbury said.

It was a day in which the future looked exceedingly bright for the Boston Red Sox. Ellsbury, the top position prospect in the organization, was joined in San Francisco by the rocket right arm of Clay Buchholz, who might be Pawtucket-bound after the All-Star break.

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"I've been told that I might be going to Pawtucket; that would be great," said Buchholz. "That's what you want to do in Minor League Baseball, move up in the ranks. That would be fun for me. If it doesn't happen, I'm happy pitching in Portland. It's a great place to pitch."

Buchholz is 7-2 with a 1.77 ERA for Double-A Portland.

"It's sort of been a little blur because you don't ever expect to go out and do as well as everything has been going this year," said Buchholz. "You expect there to be a couple of bumps in the road and there hasn't really been that many for me yet. Hopefully there's no bumps and I can keep it rolling, but I'm not going to get all bent out of shape about it if there's a couple. I'm trying to ride that little wave right now and it's been good so far."

Buchholz pitched an inning out of the bullpen on Sunday. He gave up a solo home run to Joey Votto, but then settled down to get the next three batters.

In order to get Buchholz prepared for his rare relief appearance, the Red Sox had him pitch out of the bullpen in his last outing for Portland.

And even though Buchholz's future is all but certain to be as a starting pitcher, what if the Red Sox asked him to fill a relief role in their bullpen at some point this season? Buchholz would welcome that opportunity.

"Oh, most definitely," Buchholz said. "I've done it before. I did it in college a couple of times. It's just more of a mental part of the game. It's two different mental sides of the game, relieving and starting. If you get your mind right, you can do it. It's not that big of a difference."

Buchholz and Ellsbury have both come through the ranks quickly after being selected in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. It was a thrill for Buchholz to watch Ellsbury play in Boston for a few days.

"He's on cloud nine right now, I don't see how anyone could be above him right now," Buchholz said. "It was awesome seeing him get to go to Boston, a guy that I came up playing with and seeing him get a bunch of starts up there."

In case you thought Ellsbury might mope after going back to Pawtucket, consider that he hit his first Triple-A homer in Game 1 of Friday's doubleheader.

"I got my first home run on my first day back so I was pretty excited about that. It was good," said Ellsbury.

Not that the boost of power in Rochester did all that much for him when it came time to aim for Barry Bonds territory during Sunday morning's batting practice.

"It's a long way out to McCovey Cove," said Ellsbury.

But it might not be all that long before Ellsbury finds himself back in Boston.

"It gives you a lot of confidence," Ellsbury said. "No matter what you do in the Minor Leagues, you don't know what it's going to be like until you play in front of 40,000 fans. It gives you the confidence to go back to the Minor Leagues and just continue to improve and know what you need to work on."

Likewise, Buchholz very much wants to get to Boston at some point in 2007.

"I'd like to say so," said Buchholz. "That's a goal for me, just going up there and seeing what it's all about, maybe getting a cup of coffee in September or something, if not before then, that would be great too. I'm not going to get mad if it doesn't happen. It doesn't happen to a lot of people. It would be great though."

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

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