Jacoby Ellsbury was not in the Yankees’ lineup when they returned to the Bronx to host the Reds on Tuesday night. That’s going to happen pretty regularly now, as manager Joe Girardi officially labeled the $153-million man his fourth outfielder before the game.
“There’s going to be days that he’s going to start,” Girardi said of Ellsbury, who went into the night batting .249 with four home runs and 17 RBIs. “And I told him I’ll let him know and prepare him for those days. I can use him off the bench to pinch run and do a lot of things. But right now he’s kind of in that role of the fourth outfielder.”
Ellsbury lost his job to hot-hitting rookie Clint Frazier. Girardi said over the weekend he was just “going with the hot hand,” but he decided to talk to Ellsbury about his new status before the Yankees returned home.
“Players don’t like it,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. But there was a decision I had to make and I made it. As you tell a player, ‘Nothing’s ever permanent in this game.’ He’s going to get the opportunities to play. This game’s based on performance.”
Ellsbury, who still has three more years and $63 million left on his contract, said: “I’ll be ready when my name’s called. You want to play. That says it all.”
Of his conversation with Girardi, Ellsbury said: “I’m not going to get into all that. I want to play . . . Nothing’s permanent.”
Greg Bird, who had right ankle surgery on July 18, is wearing a walking boot. He still hopes to return this season . . . Aaron Hicks (oblique strain) and Tyler Austin (hamstring strain) are getting close to rehab assignments . . . Girardi said Caleb Smith is expected to start Saturday afternoon against Tampa Bay.