ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In the Yankees’ mostly awful first month of the season at the plate, two players took the brunt of fan anger: Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury. Both have shown improvement this month, Ellsbury dramatically so.
The centerfielder, who had a .235/.278/.341 slash line in April, brought a .350/.435/.567 line this month into Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rays and went 2-for-5.
Joe Girardi said “physically” he doesn’t see a lot of difference between the Ellsbury of April and the Ellsbury of May.
“A lot of times it just comes down to when you get your pitch, you don’t miss it,” Girardi said before the Yankees’ 9-5 loss. “You don’t foul it back or just get under it or get on top of it, you square it up. And that’s what I’ve seen.”
He’s also seen a far more productive lineup that, along with lights-out starting pitching, had allowed the Yankees to win 14 of 21 entering Saturday’s game.
“You look at the two guys that have probably had the most influence on this run that we’ve been on are Carlos [Beltran] and Jacoby,” Girardi said.
Austin Romine, a one-time highly regarded prospect for the Yankees who finally broke through to win the backup catcher’s job during spring training, started Saturday afternoon. After going 3-for-4 with two RBIs Saturday, the 27-year-old, a second-round pick of the club in 2007, has a .314/.340/.471 slash line.
That’s something few would have predicted after he lost out to John Ryan Murphy during spring training in 2015.
“I think he’s grown up a lot. I think he’s a lot more relaxed,” said Girardi, who has always been a fan of Romine’s defense. “I think he came in last year knowing he had a chance to make the team and probably put too much pressure on himself. I think he came into spring training [this year] relaxed and understood I can’t really compete for a job unless I relax and play the way I’m capable of playing instead of pressing so much. We always felt that he could catch at this level. It was just offensively he had some struggles, but he’s figured it out.”
Teixeira out for Sunday
Joe Girardi said Mark Teixeira, who received a cortisone shot in his neck Thursday, will not play Sunday. He left open the possibility of a return Monday when the Yankees start a three-game series in Toronto.
“He’s a little better, today, which is good,” Girardi said, adding that he hopes Teixeira can take batting practice Sunday. “We knew it would take a couple days for it [the shot] to take effect. I’m hoping between today and tomorrow, you see some significant improvement and maybe we have a guy on Monday.”
Dustin Ackley again filled in at first base and went 1-for-4.
The Yankees debuted their matte-finished batting helmets — they essentially have no shine — Friday night. They will wear them for all road games the rest of the season.
“I like them,” Girardi said. “It’s something different. Matte finish has kind of become popular in cars and now I guess it’s popular with helmets. I don’t think it’s flashy, but I like it.”
The Pirates and Dodgers are among the MLB teams that currently utilize the helmets. Equipment manager Rob Cucuzza polled players, who all endorsed the change, as well as general manager Brian Cashman, who ultimately gave the go-ahead.