Acting manager Rob Thomson, who is running the portion of the team that did not make the trip to Panama for the two-game "Legends Series'' against the Miami Marlins, said the move was precautionary and that Ellsbury could have played if this were the regular season. Ellsbury said the same.
"If this was regular season, I'd be playing, for sure," Ellsbury said. "That was the first thing I told them. I'm good to play. They just said, hey let's just get this thing 100 percent."
"He wanted to play, and he could have played, except that we want to make sure we knock this thing out before anything serious happened,'' Thomson said. "I talked to [GM Brian Cashman] and [manager Joe Girardi], and since it's spring training we're going to back him off.''
Thomson said Ellsbury also would not travel with the team to Bradenton for Monday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and characterized the injury as "day to day.''
"I mean, that's his life, whether he's hitting or running or defending, he's got to have good legs under him,'' Thomson said.
"But I think it's not going to be long.''
Ellsbury appeared briefly in the Yankees clubhouse before the game but did not stop to speak with reporters. On Saturday, he had left the field without taking batting practice after the rest of the Yankees traveled to Sarasota for a game against the Baltimore Orioles, but Thomson said that Ellsbury chose to hit in the indoor cage instead.
"I think it bothered him a little bit [on Saturday], but that wasn't the reason why he came off the field,'' Thomson said. "He came off the field because he wanted to hit in the cage off some more velocity. He hit a bunch in the cage. That was what he wanted to do.''
The injury to Ellsbury raises concerns because the 30-year-old former Boston Red Sox outfielder, who signed a seven-year, $153 million contract with the Yankees this off-season, has a history of injuries and long absences.
In 2010, he suffered broken ribs in a basepath collision and appeared in just 18 games, and in 2012 he separated his right shoulder while attempting to break up a double play. He also missed some time in 2013 after suffering a compression fracture by fouling a ball off his right foot.
"If it was a recurring muscle over and over, then it would be a red flag,'' Thomson said. "But I don't think he's had any calf injuries before.''
Ellsbury was replaced at the top of the Yankees lineup by Ichiro Suzuki. Mason Williams will play center field. Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who the Yankees signed to a seven-year, $155 million deal in January, will make his second start of the spring.