A day off couldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Matt Holliday. The 37-year-old DH hasn’t looked right since coming off the disabled list July 13, going 7-for-53 with one homer and three RBIs in 12 games.

As the Yankees began a key series Thursday night against the Rays and Chris Archer, Holliday found himself on the bench, though Joe Girardi pointed out that his recent difficulties weren’t the sole reason.

Jacoby Ellsbury brought excellent career numbers against Archer (20-for-40) into the game, so he got the start in center. Ellsbury doubled home a run and scored on Todd Frazier’s single in the second inning. Girardi didn’t want to lose the hot bat of Clint Frazier, who had an impressive .871 OPS in his first 18 games, so the rookie outfielder served as the DH. “He’s swinging the bat extremely well,” Girardi said.

Holliday. who had a run-scoring forceout as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, hasn’t looked good since getting scratched from a start June 18 in Oakland because of some of the symptoms of the viral infection that eventually landed him on the DL June 25.

“We continue to talk about it,” Girardi said of speculation about just how much strength Holliday has regained. “His BPs have been good, he’s had some good at-bats, but he just hasn’t gotten back on track. I think he will, but it just hasn’t happened yet.”

Hicks, Austin making strides

Girardi said Aaron Hicks (right oblique strain) and Tyler Austin (right hamstring strain) will head out on rehab assignments next week. The expectation for Hicks’ return from the disabled list remains two to three weeks while no timetable has been set for Austin. Hicks had a slash line of .290/.398/.515 before he went on the DL June 26.

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Ellsbury handling demotion

Girardi said Ellsbury, who last week all but lost starter status because of Clint Frazier, is dealing with it “probably about as good as you can.”

“It’s not an easy situation for him, and I understand that,” Girardi said. “But I think he’s prepared, we’ve had him pinch run, we’ve had him do different things, and he’s been extremely prepared.”

Entering Thursday night, Ellsbury had a .167/.257/.212 slash line in 20 games since coming off the DL on June 25 after suffering a concussion.