Numbers game

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Two returning Boston Red Sox players will be wearing new numbers this season. Jacoby Ellsbury, who was No. 46 his first three seasons, is now wearing No. 2, which had been worn by bench coach Brad Mills before he was hired to manage the Houston Astros.

"I don't know what the connection is,'' said Sox equipment manager Joe Cochran, who is in charge of distributing the numbers. "I have no idea.''

Ellsbury requested the number after Mills was hired by the Astros, Cochran said.

Clay Buchholz, who had been No. 61 since his big-league debut in 2007, is now No. 11.

"No clue,'' Cochran said. "Requested it, it was available.''

Hideo Nomo is the last pitcher to have worn No. 11. Casey Kotchman wore it last season, and it is a number favored by infielders in the past, including Luis Aparicio, Alex Gonzalez, Tim Naehring, Frank Malzone and Bill Mueller.

Newcomer John Lackey, who had worn No. 41 with the Angels, took No. 40, since Victor Martinez has No. 41 here.

Mike Cameron is No. 23, worn last season by three players -- Julio Lugo, Adam LaRoche and Joey Gathright.

Marco Scutaro, the new shortstop, is No. 16, worn last season by George Kottaras.

Adrian Beltre, the new third baseman, is No. 29, worn last season by both John Smoltz and hitting coach Dave Magadan (Mags is now no. 28).

Outfielder Jeremy Hermida is No. 32, worn last by Brian Anderson, while utilityman Bill Hall checks in with No. 22, Nick Green's number last season.

New first base cocah Ron Johnson, the former PawSox manager, will be No. 50 in his big-league debut.

"You make a list out -- old school,'' Cochran said. "Take out a notebook and list all the available numbers. Some are better than others.

"There's a method to the madness."

There are numbers that haven't been touched in recent years. No one has worn Roger Clemens' No. 21 since he left the Red Sox after 1996.

"No one has asked for it,'' said Cochran, who probably would discourage someone from doing so.

Pedro Martinez's No. 45 hasn't been worn since he left after the 2004 season, and it was only last season that the Sox gave out Nomar Garciaparra's No. 5, which was worn by Rocco Baldelli.

"Guys know the history and legacy of the numbers,'' Cochran said. "I could see a position player asking for 21 before a pitcher.''

The highest number in camp this spring is being worn by Kyle Weiland, a nonroster pitcher who last season played for Class A Salem.

"No relation to Scott, Stone Temple Pilots,'' said Tom McLaughlin, the visiting clubhouse manager.

Check out redsoxdiehard.com, a great website for Sox uniform numbers.