Early notes: Ellsbury sighting

March, 21, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- Jacoby Ellsbury took batting practice on the field before tonight's game against the Pirates, a mild surprise since his name did not appear on the list of batting practice groups posted in the Yankees' clubhouse this afternoon.

Joe Girardi put that down to a miscommunication between himself and coach Rob Thomson, who is responsible for posting the workout groups each day. "Topper just didn't know Ellsbury was going to hit," Girardi said.

Girardi said he still needed to see Ellsbury run at full speed on his tight right calf before clearing him to play, but said a return to the field for Sunday afternoon's game here against the Blue Jays was not out of the question.

"And if not Sunday, then we'll shoot for Tuesday,” Girardi said. The Yankees are off Monday.

Ellsbury took the customary number of swings in the first group along with Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts and Brian McCann, then shagged flies for a few minutes before jogging lightly back to the dugout. He disappeared down into the tunnel, presumably to do his conditioning in the weight room. We'll try to talk to him when the clubhouse reopens after batting practice at about 5:15.

Meanwhile, here's tonight's Yankees lineup:

Brett Gardner CF
Jeter SS
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
McCann C
Alfonso Soriano LF
Kelly Johnson 3B
Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki DH

CC Sabathia LHP

Velocity still an issue?: Sabathia pitched five hitless innings against the Miami Marlins in his most recent outing March 16 in Panama, with the only baserunner reaching on an error. He was effective with his slider and changeup but there were no radar gun readings on his fastball, which had clocked in at around 88 mph in his previous start March 11 against the Nationals in Viera. Sabathia has had a decent spring -- 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in three starts -- but you can bet all eyes will be on that radar gun tonight.

The real Yankees: Tonight's lineup, minus Ellsbury, is pretty much the lineup Girardi will be sending out on a daily basis during the regular season with one slight difference: Soriano, tonight's left fielder, will be the DH once Ellsbury is healthy enough to play again, and Ichiro, who had a big hit in last night's 3-2 win over the Red Sox, will be back on the bench. Ellsbury will be the leadoff hitter and Gardner, who is leading off tonight, will probably be in the ninth spot, where Ichiro is hitting tonight.

Closing time: David Robertson is scheduled to pitch tonight, and since Sabathia will probably be allowed to go six innings or between 85-90 pitches, Robertson is likely to pitch late in a game for the first time all spring. In fact, we may see the new setup/closer sequence, since Shawn Kelley, the potential eighth-inning man, is also scheduled to pitch. Matt Thornton and David Herndon are also available.

The Pseudo-Bucs: The Pirates have just three regulars from last year's team in tonight's lineup: defending NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, 1B Gaby Sanchez and 2B Neil Walker, who is tonight's DH. Also in the lineup is newly-acquired 3B Robert Andino, signed as a free agent in the offseason. RHP Edinson Volquez gets the start.

Back to the Fort: The Yankees make their second trip to Ft. Myers, 135 miles to the south, tomorrow morning to play the Minnesota Twins, and as you might expect, aren't sending too many marquee names aside from starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. On the bus tomorrow will be Gardner, Eduardo Nunez, Francisco Cervelli, Johnson and Zoilo Almonte.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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Masahiro Tanaka
13 2.77 141 136
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146