When the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury to that lucrative yet controversial contract, the last thing they expected was he would hit fifth in the lineup.
But, here we are.
Year four of the seven year contract, and Ellsbury is now hitting in the middle of the lineup. The Yankees made good on their word by separating Ellsbury and Brett Gardner at the top of the order, and went even further when they slotted Gary Sanchez in the two-hole.
On Wednesday, a day after Ellsbury was slotted fifth in the lineup, Girardi approached Ellsbury to talk about the change.
“I talked to him about it before,” Ellsbury said, prior to the Yankees defeating the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 in exhibition play. “He asked me what I thought. [I said] whatever’s best for the team.”
Asked if he thought it helped the team, Ellsbury said: “If [Girardi] feels that way, I feel that way.’’
The change in the order won’t last forever. Girardi will have to make another lineup decision in May when Didi Gregorius is slated to return from a shoulder strain.
Even Ellsbury isn’t convinced the move will be set in stone. A lot could change between now and Opening Day, which happens to be on Sunday.
“It’s not even set in stone,” Ellsbury said. “We’re talking about something that’s not even for sure. … That’s Opening Day. Day Two, it could be a different lineup [depending on] lefty [or] righty. It’s one game out of 162.”
Ellsbury signed with the Yankees after hitting .297/.350/.439 in seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox. However, since coming to the Bronx, he’s hit a pedestrian .264/.326/.382 in parts of three seasons despite an annual salary north of $21 million per year. The Yankees are in the middle of a semi-rebuild and with 7/1 odds of winning the division this season, they will need Ellsbury to hit more like he did back in his days with the Sox.