Now through three years of a seven-year, $153 million contract, it's clear the Yankees aren't getting what they expected out of Jacoby Ellsbury. The center fielder stayed healthy enough to play in 148 games and saw improvement across the board from a disappointing 2015 season, but his production was nowhere close to the level from his earlier years in Boston or even during his first year with New York in 2014. In addition to his struggles at the plate, the former speedster attempted just three steals in the final two and a half months, as that element of his game continues to decline. On the positive side, Ellsbury drew a career-high 54 walks, ensuring that he was still able to work his way on base at a decent clip despite a disappointing .263 average. It's wise to expect further skills regression as he enters his age-33 season, but Ellsbury should open the year atop the order and he still does enough across the board to remain on the mixed-league radar.
Manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday that he is "leaning toward" batting Ellsbury fifth, the Associated Press reports. Ellsbury has been in the two-hole throughout the spring, but he's batting fifth Tuesday and Girardi suggested that is where Ellsbury will be on Opening Day. The Yankees wanted to break up Brett Gardner and Ellsbury (both lefties) at the top of the order, so the new plan is to go with Gary Sanchez in the No. 2 spot followed by Greg Bird, Matt Holliday and Ellsbury. Ellsbury has never started a regular-season game in the No. 5 spot.
Ellsbury made his debut at the Yankees spring facility Tuesday, George A. King of the New York Post reports. The outfielder was delayed a couple of days while staying with his family for the birth of his second child, but he's since reported to camp and will be a full participant going forward. The 33-year-old has struggled at times to live up to the $153 million deal he inked with New York prior to the 2014 season, but he's still slated to command a spot atop the lineup and man the every day duties in center field in 2017.
Ellsbury is not in Saturday's lineup against the Orioles. The Yankees will rest several regulars Saturday in a meaningless game (at least for them) against the Orioles. Aaron Hicks will get the start in center field, hitting second Saturday.
Ellsbury went 2-for-3 with a double, two walks, a steal, a run and an RBI in Tuesday's 4-1 win over the Red Sox. Ellsbury stuffed the stat sheet against his former team, highlighting a strong outing with a fifth-inning RBI double. He now has three multi-hit efforts in the last four games, as well as three runs and four RBI. New York was eliminated from playoff contention despite the win, and will likely rest the veteran outfielder in its final series against the Orioles.
Ellsbury (knee) hopes to return to the lineup Wednesday, Newsday's Erik Boland reports. He will miss a second straight game with the knee bruise Tuesday, but it sounds like Ellsbury is optimistic about returning to action Wednesday. Mason Williams is starting in center field and hitting ninth Tuesday.