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Brett Gardner feeling better, but still not starting

Brett Gardner has missed the last three games

Brett Gardner has missed the last three games with right knee soreness. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Brett Gardner wanted to return to the lineup on Wednesday night against Seattle righthander Felix Hernandez. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said no, and also made it clear Gardner won’t start on Thursday afternoon against lefthander James Paxton, either.

Gardner, who has a sore right knee, was available off the bench. He hadn’t played since Saturday.

“It feels much better,” Gardner said. “I’m encouraged by it. I was hoping to be in the lineup [Wednesday], but . . . I thought [Wednesday] was realistic, but I think they’re just kind of playing it safe.”

Said Boone: “Gardy always gives a little pushback. That’s one of the things we love about him.”

Ellsbury update

Boone said Jacoby Ellsbury, who has not played this season because of various ailments, was “close” to resuming baseball activity. Ellsbury saw a back specialist last week and is back at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa, Florida.

Boone said he is “hopeful” Ellsbury will play this season, but added: “I’m not going to speculate on if and when.”

Ellsbury, who is making more than $21.1 million this season and is signed for two more guaranteed years at that salary plus a $5 million buyout for 2021, has been down at different times with an oblique strain, a foot injury and a back issue. None of injuries seem serious, but the Yankees have insisted Ellsbury has not been cleared to play.

“I don’t think it’s fair to characterize them as not serious because they’ve kept him down,“ Boone said. “And maybe some have led to another. They’ve been kind of nagging things that have truly prevented him from getting him to that final step of getting into games and getting to play regularly. It’s unfortunate, but hopefully he can just continue to progress and some point hit the ground running and put this stuff behind him.”

Tanaka update

Masahiro Tanaka, who is out with strains to both hamstrings, played catch.

“He’s progressing pretty well,” Boone said. “We’ll sit down and see what’s the next course of action for him, but he’s doing pretty well and progressing the right way.”

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