Jacoby Ellsbury is coming back to the Yankees at the end of the month . . . or before the All-Star break . . . or . . . you know what? Let's just say Ellsbury will come back eventually. Probably.

Truth is, no one seems to really know when his sprained right knee will be fully healed, because the timetable keeps changing.

Although manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday that healing was going slower than expected and that the original timetable (June 30) didn't seem likely, both Ellsbury and Girardi stepped back Thursday and said there had been no setbacks in Ellsbury's recovery.

As if to prove it, Ellsbury sprinted around the bases during warmups for the first time since being injured, and took batting practice.

"I'm pushing it each and every day," Ellsbury said. Asked about his pain level, he said: "I'm progressing. It's my knee, obviously. I'm a speed and power player and that's important."

Ellsbury said he still hoped to be back by the end of the month.

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Both he and Girardi stressed that the decision to not leave him in Florida when the Yankees traveled to Miami earlier this week was not an indication that things were worse than expected.

Originally, team officials had hoped that Ellsbury could begin rehab games with the Tampa affiliate. Girardi said he will stay with the team until he's ready for those games.

"I've been working out with the trainers , making great progress, and we figured, might as well continue to make really good progress before I come back," Ellsbury said.

Added Girardi: "He feels good. He's not behind. He's just doing so well that we thought we might leave him here. He's not behind."

And, when he was asked about a firm timetable, Girardi went back to the original optimism.

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"We're happy at where he's at and we're hoping to get him back…right around the end of the month," he said.

Extra bases

Mariano Rivera. who was in Jerusalem, dropped in a prayer for his former teammates and said he was impressed with the Yankees' current bullpen, The Associated Press reported. "They have a tremendous bullpen," the former closer was quoted as saying. "Hopefully, they will continue doing the job that they have been doing for all this time . . . I hope and pray that they will continue." . . . After his shortened start earlier this week against the Marlins, Nathan Eovaldi will get the start Saturday on three days' rest, Girardi announced . . . Ivan Nova will make his third and possibly final rehab start Friday with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Lehigh Valley.