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May 15, 2007:

FARM REPORT by Gary Jacobs

Outfield Logjam

Murphy, Moss, and Ellsbury

(Getty Images and Boston Globe Staff Photos)

PAWTUCKET, RI | May 14, 2007-- Boston, we have a problem. But oh, what a problem to have.

Boston’s outfield is currently stocked with a first-ballot Hall of Famer in left and one of the game’s most gifted (if somewhat fragile) players in right. The only position ever thought of as a liability is center, where even the much-maligned Coco Crisp is, as ever, an electrifying defensive force.

And waiting in the wings in Pawtucket is the most gifted troika of outfielders the farm system has seen in years in David Murphy, Brandon Moss, and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury played his first game in Pawtucket on May 4 after ripping it up with the Eastern League’s (Double-A) Portland Sea Dogs. In 17 games in Portland, he batted a jaw-dropping .452, which leads all minor leaguers. He also topped the list for hits and doubles (33 and 10 respectively). Baseball America ranks him as Boston’s No. 1 prospect, a notion seconded by the Baseball Writers Association of America, who awarded him the honor of Red Sox minor league player of the year. In his first nine games in Pawtucket he’s batting .263.

Moss is also spending his first season in Pawtucket, and though his bat has cooled off a little bit he’s batting a respectable .272 with a team-leading seven home runs.

Rounding out this remarkable threesome is the only one of the bunch with any major-league experience: David Murphy, whose hot start in Pawtucket last year earned him a September callup.

Murphy has overcome a slow start to bring his average up to .318 and is among the team leaders in hits, RBIs and OBP, and has demonstrated a newfound patience at the plate by leading the team in walks with 21. “I didn’t feel comfortable at the plate for the first few weeks,” said Murphy. “My swing just wasn’t there, but I made some adjustments and it’s coming around again.”

Of the three, Murphy is the one who is ready now. Should Ramirez, Crisp, or Drew fall to injury, watch for Murphy to be called up. But it’s easy to imagine an outfield of Ellsbury, Murphy, and Moss patrolling the Fenway outfield for years to come.

Farm Notes

Last year’s two most promising pitchers, Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen, have struggled this year. They are both sporting bloated ERAs of 5.60 and 6.00 respectively, and have not been able to get it done at all this year.

One pitcher who has been able to get it done is Kason Gabbard, whose 2.74 ERA should turn a few heads if the Big Club needs a spot starter for the recently injured Josh Beckett.

Another hurler that may get a callup some time is Craig Breslow, who enjoyed a cup of coffee with the Big Club after earning Pawtucket’s only spot in the IL All-Star game. In 19 innings pitched he has a 1.42 ERA, walking four while striking out 19. Why Breslow is a minor leaguer is a mystery. In 15 games with San Diego in 2005 he posted a 2.20 ERA with his opposition batting .238 against him, yet was released. He deserves another shot – but with the Boston pen operating at the level it is, it may be a while before he gets it.

The best PawSoxer you’ve never heard of? Bobby Scales, hands down. The talented Scales sports a .311 BA and a gaudy .970 OPS. He plays most infield and outfield positions and can DH. The 29-year old career minor-leaguer is enjoying his best year so far in professional baseball. Look for Scales to help the Big Club as a September callup.

Alex Ochoa’s attempt at a return to American baseball may be falling short. Playing in Japan since the 2003 season after having earned a World Series ring with the then-Anaheim Angels in 2002, Ochoa decided to come back after the 2006 season, after playing all four preceding years for the Chunichi Dragons of the Central League. In 24 games Ochoa is batting .138, with one double, no triples or home runs, and four walks to go with 17 strikeouts.

-- Gary Jacobs, Boston Dirt Dogs contributor. E-mail Gary

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