Ellsbury swings bat, optimistic for opener

Outfielder takes cuts for first time since straining his oblique on March 15

Ellsbury swings bat, optimistic for opener

TAMPA, Fla. -- Jacoby Ellsbury said that he is excited to pick up a bat for tee work and soft toss on Thursday, which he believes will be a good test as he attempts to be ready for the Yankees' Opening Day lineup.

Ellsbury has not played in a game since March 15 due to a right oblique strain that the Yankees have characterized as "extremely mild." Manager Joe Girardi has said that as long as Ellsbury can play in a game by March 31, he is unconcerned about the season opener on April 6.

"I can still get in quite a few games, and that would be great," Ellsbury said. "Today is a nice little step in the right direction in the sense of swinging. I feel pretty confident that I'll definitely be in the Opening Day lineup."

Ellsbury has been running sprints, playing catch and swinging a broomstick in recent days. He said that attempting more explosive activities will provide a better indication of how the oblique has progressed, and he is following the advice of the Yanks' training staff.

"I guess the biggest thing is, I haven't had it before, so I'm basically going off their instructions," Ellsbury said. "These are the steps that worked in the past for guys, so this is the progression we want you to take. I'm just listening to them and I know they're doing a very good job."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.