Jacoby Ellsbury says he's fully healed

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury beat the reporting date for position players by one day when he strolled in Wednesday morning and pronounced himself fully recovered from the fractured ribs that
limited him to 18 games last season.

Ellsbury deflected most questions about last season, and appeared purposely vague when asked specifics about the timing of his clearance to resume activity.

"Every spring training is a fresh start for everybody," said the 27-year-old Ellsbury, who will return to center field on a full-time basis now that the Red Sox have acquired Carl Crawford.

"I feel good, really good," he said. "I worked hard in the offseason to get to where I'm at right now. I was cleared quite a while ago. I'm hitting, throwing, everything I need to do, I'm ready to go."

He acknowledged that the long layoff may require some time to get back into full playing mode, and said he did not know if that would translate to more or fewer at-bats this spring. "But I'll be ready and 100 percent by Opening Day," he said.

Asked if the criticism he heard last season bothered him, he said: "I've put it in the past. Like I said, moving forward, looking forward to 2011."

A columnist from The Boston Globe tried to engage Ellsbury in a discussion of whether he thought the criticism was fair, even citing the example of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who was ripped for taking himself out of the NFC Championship Game with what was later diagnosed as a torn knee ligament.

"No real comments on that, either," he said. "I'm going to sound like a broken recorder."

Ellsbury said he has no qualms about playing at full tilt.

"I'm not worried at all," he said. "That first time sliding, first time diving, there will be no hesitation."

Ellsbury said he has yet to speak to Crawford, but welcomed the internal competition between two players who have each stolen 60 bases or more in a single season.

"Who's faster?" he said, repeating a question. "I wouldn't bet against myself."

Asked for an over-under on stolen bases, he said: "I don't know. I've got a personal goal. I always set them pretty high."

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.