Jacoby Ellsbury reports, stakes claim on centerfield

Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury puts on his jersey during

Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury puts on his jersey during a press conference at Yankee Stadium. (Dec. (Credit: Mike Stobe)

TAMPA, Fla. - The Yankees' infield may be a mystery but the outfield isn't.

Jacoby Ellsbury reported to camp Tuesday afternoon and stated what was obvious from the time the Yankees signed him to a seven-year, $153-million deal earlier in the winter.

"I talked to Joe [Girardi] and I'll be playing centerfield and leading off," Ellsbury said.

That will give the Yankees an outfield of Brett Gardner in left, Ellsbury in center and Carlos Beltran in right. Gardner's preference is center but there never was a chance he'd play there once the Yankees made the financial commitment to Ellsbury.

Gardner made such a smooth transition to left in 2010 -- improving to the point that many scouts thought he should have won the Gold Glove there in 2011 -- that the Yankees are feeling as if they'll have left and center covered better than anyone in the sport.

"With Ellsbury and Gardner in it, yeah, they're tremendous defenders," general manager Brian Cashman said. "No question I like what they bring to the table defensively and offensively."

Ellsbury said of combining with Gardner, "There's a lot of talent, a lot of speed."

Ellsbury spent the first seven years of his career with the Red Sox before changing to the uniform of a team that Boston fans hate like no other.

"It felt good," Ellsbury said of putting on pinstripes for the first time. "Obviously, looks a little different but it's something I'm looking forward to it. This team has a chance to win and play deep into October."

That is the expectation for every Yankees team, even more the case this year given the club's spending spree that netted Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Beltran to go along with Ellsbury.

"The sky's the limit," Ellsbury said. "A lot of talent here. That was the big reason I signed, the chance to win the World Series."

Something the 30-year-old, who said he is completely healed from the broken right foot he suffered last September, has done twice with the Red Sox.

"Once you get a taste of that one time -- fortunately I've had the chance to do it twice -- that's what you go into each year striving for," Ellsbury said. "I like that expectation, that pressure of having that, the expectation and pressure of you winning. I know as a player I enjoy that. It makes you push that much harder to get to that goal."

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