With Clint Frazier starting over Jacoby Ellsbury against Cincinnati right-hander Luis Castillo on Tuesday, manager Joe Girardi left no doubt that Ellsbury is now the Yankees ’ fourth outfielder.
“There ’s going to be days he ’s going to start and I told him I ’d let him know and prepare him for those days,” Girardi said before the Yankees ’ 4-2 win over the Reds in The Bronx. “I ’ll use him off the bench [to] pinch run. … Right now he has the role of the fourth outfielder, but he ’s gonna play.”
That ’s hardly a vote of confidence for someone in the middle of a seven-year, $153 million deal, but Ellsbury ’s lack of production since returning from a concussion, as well as the emergence of Frazier, helped force Girardi ’s hand.
Ellsbury called the conversation with Girardi “brief.” He added he was “fine” physically and admitted he ’s struggled since missing a month with the concussion suffered when he crashed into a wall on May 24.
“The first two months I had good numbers,” Ellsbury said. “It ’s only been the last three weeks.”
Ellsbury is 11-for-62 since returning to the lineup, with just two extra-base hits and a .497 OPS. He ’s also 0-for-10 in his last five games — three of those starts.
Girardi said Ellsbury could play himself back into an everyday role.
“Nothing ’s ever permanent in this game,” Girardi said. “He ’s going to get the opportunity to play. This game is based on performance, especially as you get to the second half and last 60 games of the year.”
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For those wondering about Ellsbury ’s future with the Yankees, since he has three years and $63 million remaining on his contract before he can receive a $5 million buyout in 2021, his agent, Scott Boras, is confident he is in the right place.
“Jacoby had a [.771] OPS the first two months of the season before he suffered the concussion,” Boras said. “Not many center fielders give teams that. When he ’s playing as well as he can, Jacoby is exactly what the Yankees need. … It ’s not about ability or skill. It ’s about getting him back to where he was before the injury.”
When Aaron Hicks returns form his strained right oblique, which is still weeks away, Ellsbury still could be in a backup spot.
“Nobody wants to perform up to the level of his contract more than Jacoby,” Boras said. “I give him credit for wanting to be out there.”
Ellsbury said he would do what he could to try to adjust to the reduction in playing time.
“I haven ’t really had to do that yet,” Ellsbury said. “I ’m doing everything I can to get my play to where it was before I had the concussion. I ’ll put in the work and the time like I always do and go from there. … I told him I would do everything I can to help the team win. That ’s the most important thing.”