Ellsbury: No doubt he'll be fine for playoffs

DENVER -- For the Red Sox, there is one question for Jacoby Ellsbury that trumps all others: How confident is he that he will be able to play when the AL Division Series opens a week from Friday?

“I’ll be ready,’’ Ellsbury said Wednesday night. “If I wasn’t [confident of that], I wouldn’t be playing right now.’’

Wearing a protective plate over his shoe slightly bigger than the one he was wearing when he fouled a ball off his right foot and sustained a small fracture of the navicular bone, Ellsbury returned to the Sox lineup for the first time in 16 games Wednesday night. He lined a single to finish off a seven-pitch at-bat leading off the game, grounded out to second in the second inning, and drew a walk in the fourth. He scored both times he reached base, and handled his only chance in the field before manager John Farrell replaced him with Jackie Bradley Jr. in the bottom of the fourth.

The plan coming into the game was for Ellsbury to have three plate appearances.

“It was a nice game back,’’ he said. “Definitely felt excited by it. Felt pretty good out there, as far as seeing the ball and in the outfield.’’

Ellsbury said he’s still experiencing soreness.

“It’s a healing bone,’’ he said. “It doesn’t heal itself in a week. I was happy to get out there and play, run around. I kind of did everything I needed to do. Sprint down the line, run for a ball in the gap, just do everything I need to do. The plan was to give me three ABs. I got ‘em early today. It was good.’’

Ellsbury was pleased at his timing at the plate despite the prolonged layoff.

“Pretty good,’’ he said. “Saw the ball well. First at-bat, fouled off a couple of breaking balls, got another breaking ball, put it in play. My second at-bat, got into a good hitter’s count, 2 and 0, put a good swing on it, and my last AB, saw a lot of changeups, laid off those, so I pretty much saw all the pitches, saw the ball really well and thought my timing was pretty good considering I’d missed some time.’’

Ellsbury was examined Tuesday by Dr. Thomas Clanton, the foot specialist in Denver who had confirmed the team’s original diagnosis of a small fracture at the top of the bone, much less severe than the fracture that sidelined Dustin Pedroia for more than half a season in 2010. Clanton gave Ellsbury the green light to return.

Ellsbury said he plans to play this weekend in Baltimore, but how much is still to be determined. The Sox want to see how the foot responds to Wednesday night’s action first.

“That was important to me, to get back as soon as possible and get into some games before the postseason starts,’’ he said. “I’m definitely very pleased. I know I’m pleased, the team’s pleased that the doc said I could go out and play tonight.’’

How concerned was he, prior to seeing Clanton the first time, that the recovery might take longer?

“Most cases are longer,’’ he said, “but we were pretty optimistic that I would recover fast and be back on the field before [the end of] the regular season. We felt that from Day 1. I know they were pleased with how fast everything healed up. It’s just good to get back out there before the postseason starts.’’

Ellsbury said he is wearing a specially designed shoe that includes some protective insets. What was disappointing, he said, was that he was wearing a protective guard on the shoe when he was struck by the foul ball, but it found a gap less than the width of his finger and struck the bone.