ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jacoby Ellsbury batted fifth on Opening Day and likely will bat in that spot most days and nights.

At least until Didi Gregorius returns to the lineup.

When that occurs — which won’t be until May at the earliest — manager Joe Girardi hinted that the oft-criticized Ellsbury, who went 0-for-3 Sunday, very well could be dropped further in the order.

“I’m not sure what I would do, but I think Didi has those capabilities as well,” Girardi said of hitting in the middle of the order.

Gregorius had a .276/.304/.447 slash line and hit a career-best 20 homers last season. The Yankees placed him on the 10-day disabled list (retroactive to March 30) Sunday with the right shoulder strain he suffered during the World Baseball Classic. Standing in street clothes in the dugout before the game, Gregorius said he no longer feels discomfort in the shoulder and expects to resume throwing sometime this week.

“You’re missing a very good shortstop with a strong arm that hit 20 homers who we feels is growing as an offensive player,” Girardi said. “So you’re going to miss that. Didi’s a guy you can hit somewhere in the middle of the order.”

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Girardi, as he did during spring training, mentioned Ellsbury hitting 32 homers and driving in 105 runs in 2011 as evidence that he can handle middle-of-the-order duties. But when Gregorius returns, Girardi said, if Ellsbury is dropped, it shouldn’t be seen as a demotion.

“There’s nothing wrong with a guy hitting eighth or ninth and driving in 90-plus runs,” Girardi said. “In our successful years, that’s what we had. It’s not like you’re not important to the lineup; it’s just the lineup is so good, that’s just where you fall.”

Good job by Warren

Adam Warren’s desire is to start, but it took one game for him to show why the Yankees put him in the bullpen as a long man. He entered Sunday with two outs in the fourth and pitched a perfect 2 1⁄3 innings, striking out two.

Roster maneuverings

Yankees videos

To get infielder Pete Kozma on the 25-man roster, the Yankees placed infielder Tyler Austin on the 60-day DL with a fractured left ankle.