TAMPA, Fla. — As a nearly 11-minute interview session ended, Jacoby Ellsbury gave a weary smile.
“Anything about this year?” the centerfielder said pleasantly.
But there was oh so much to cover from last season.
Starting with the AL wild-card game, one in which a struggling Ellsbury found himself benched as Chris Young started in leftfield, Brett Gardner in center and Carlos Beltran in right. Ellsbury pinch hit in the eighth inning and popped out.
The centerfielder did not speak to reporters after the game, leading many to believe he was angry and Joe Girardi had some fence-mending to do. On Wednesday Ellsbury said that wasn’t the case.
“I talked to Joe that day, talked to him on the field and he knows how bad I want to play, he knows how much time I put into playing and being the player that I am and we left it at that,” Ellsbury said Wednesday. “And that’s all that needs to be said.”
Was he disappointed?
“I’m not going to get into all that,” Ellsbury said. “Obviously that was last year and it’s a new season. I put a lot of time into what I do, I take a lot of pride in what I do. I guess there’s no reason talking about last year.”
He did say “no” when asked if the benching impacted his relationship with Girardi, who has said it did not.
“I know these are valid questions to ask, but it really doesn’t have a bearing on this season,” Ellsbury said.
It was an odd ending to an odd season for the 32-year-old Ellsbury, who is heading into the third year of the seven-year, $153-million deal many in the game have questioned.
The outfielder, whose history in Boston included several freakish injuries, bolted from the gate in 2015 but sprained his right knee May 20. At the time, Ellsbury was leading the team in average (.324), on-base percentage (.412) and stolen bases (14).
He produced a .224/.269/.332 slash line, with seven stolen bases, after returning July 8.
As he struggled, Ellsbury insisted he was healthy, but he said Wednesday he wasn’t.
“Once I got to offseason working out and training, I realized I wasn’t where I thought I was when I came back,” he said. “I knew my team needed me to play, I knew I wasn’t 100 percent, but I thought I was at the point where, ‘They need me, I can still go out there and play and try to help the team win.’ ”
He said the knee is completely healed.
“The way I felt last year at the beginning of the season I feel that same way now,” Ellsbury said. “I feel really good.”