CLEVELAND — Jacoby Ellsbury is a spare part for the first time in his life, but he says life as a fourth outfielder hasn’t changed the way he prepares for games.
“Keep on working, that’s really it,” said Ellsbury, who started in center field and delivered a key three-run triple to help the Yankees beat the Indians, 8-1, on Sunday at Progressive Field and split a four-game series after dropping the first two. “I talk to the hitting coaches and we do whatever we need to do for that day. Stay ready when the game comes and that is all you can do.”
Ellsbury started Sunday in a 3-for-26 (.115) funk and lofted a pop fly to left in the third. Two innings later, he lined a single to right and, with a big portion of help from right fielder Abraham Almonte, came through with a bases-loaded triple to deep right field that broke a 1-1 tie.
“The ball should have been caught,” said Almonte, who battled the sun and looked tentative as he got close to the wall. “It wasn’t an easy fly ball, but it should have been caught.”
When Clint Frazier got hot, Joe Girardi stayed with the rookie in left and shifted Brett Gardner to center. Those moves turned Ellsbury into an expensive bench player who has started seven of the past 16 games.
Now with Frazier struggling (6-for-38; .158) and Aaron Hicks not ready to return from the DL, Girardi could turn back to Ellsbury for at least the final two games of a three-tilt series against the Blue Jays that starts Tuesday in Toronto. With the Blue Jays starting lefty J.A. Happ on Tuesday, it’s likely Frazier will remain in the lineup.
As for the game-changing triple off a Carlos Carrasco fastball, Ellsbury executed a plan.
“I was looking for something that I could drive, something out over the plate, something I could elevate,” Ellsbury said. “With two strikes, I thought he would be aggressive in the zone. I was looking for a pitch I could drive and put a good swing on it.”