HOUSTON - Saturday was the first of what Joe Girardi called an "important" two days for Jacoby Ellsbury.
The centerfielder, who has been on the disabled list since May 20 with a sprained right knee and has progressed more slowly than originally expected, ran the bases at what looked to be something like full speed for the first time during his rehab.
"If we can get through these couple of days where he does well, then we would really start to talk about a rehab assignment," Girardi said. "And then you're talking about him getting really close [to returning]. These next two days are important with the running and being able to go 100 percent."
Girardi said once Ellsbury gets the green light on rehab games, he doesn't expect him to need a lot of them before being ready to be activated. Still, he hesitated when asked if it seems realistic for that to occur during the next homestand.
"It's something you could think about, but I think we're getting ahead of ourselves a little bit," Girardi said. "We have to see how he does the next two days and how he responds after he starts playing."
Ryan endorses Eovaldi
When Nolan Ryan talks about pitching, people still listen.
And the legendary righthander, now an adviser with the Astros, gave high praise to Nathan Eovaldi, who, like Ryan, hails from Alvin, Texas.
"I think he probably has one of the better arms in baseball," Ryan said. "I think he knows how to pitch and he has a good idea of what he's trying to do. I think the Yankees made themselves a good deal."
Ryan sat in the first row Friday night and watched Eovaldi turn in one of his best outings of the season, allowing two runs and five hits, few of them hard-hit balls, in six innings in the Yankees' 3-2 victory.
Eovaldi grew up idolizing Ryan but had never met him. Not until Saturday, when that occurred after the Yankees took batting practice. The two chatted briefly, with Eovaldi, standing wide-eyed, mostly listening.
Top pitching prospect Luis Severino, 21, has been terrific since his promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He is 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA in six starts, including seven shutout innings on Friday.
"He's trusting his selection much better," said an opposing team scout who noted that his fastball is sitting at 93 to 97 mph and has peaked at 98. "Also making strides with control and command. Not surprised his numbers are that good."
Young hot in Houston
Girardi moved Chris Young up to second in the order and the outfielder, 16-for-34 in his previous nine games, hit a two-run homer in the second to make it 6-0. "He's been extremely important," Girardi said. "He's had some really good months for us where he's been as productive as anyone and he's doing it again in the month of June."