Ellsbury goes on DL with right knee sprain

Yankees outfielder undergoes MRI in hopes of gaining better idea of recovery time frame

Ellsbury goes on DL with right knee sprain

WASHINGTON -- The Yankees are still unsure of the timetable for Jacoby Ellsbury's expected return to the lineup, but they know they will be without one of their most productive hitters for at least 15 days, which won't make their recent slide any easier to fight out of.

Ellsbury had an MRI performed on Tuesday evening in Washington that revealed a ligament sprain near the outside of his right knee. Ellsbury will be evaluated by team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad on Friday in New York, which should give the Yanks a better idea of the prognosis.

"They literally haven't told me anything," Ellsbury said. "They put me in a brace, and I've just been doing treatment all day. I'll be on the plane tonight, off-day tomorrow, go in and do treatment again, and Friday see the team doctor."

Ellsbury, 31, said the injury occurred when he swung at a changeup from the Nationals' Gio Gonzalez in the fourth inning of Tuesday's 8-6, 10-inning loss at Washington, and felt his spike catch in the dirt. Ellsbury worked a walk in the at-bat but ran gingerly to second base, and came out of the game after scoring a run.

"The good thing is, I can put weight on it, but they're saying on the outside, lateral movements is when I'll really notice it," Ellsbury said. "Running the bases, that was just me trying to block it out. Just block it out and try to get through it, and hopefully by the time I got to the dugout, everything would have gone away."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi indicated that his working plan is to keep Brett Gardner in left field during Ellsbury's absence, while using Chris Young and rookie Slade Heathcott, who was called up from Triple-A on Wednesday, in center field. Heathcott will see time as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner, but Girardi intends to give him starts as well.

Heathcott's two-run home run

"It's not something that requires surgery, so we're not holding anything that's doom and gloom," Girardi said. "It's just, you have to see how he responds over the next few days and what Ahmad thinks."

Ellsbury was a catalyst during the Yanks' recent tear of 18 victories in 24 games, which vaulted them into first place in the American League East. For the season, he has accumulated a split line of .324/.412/.372 with 14 stolen bases and 29 runs scored, which rank among the league leaders, and Girardi said that he doubts one player can replace Ellsbury's impact.

"It is disappointing, without a doubt," Ellsbury said. "Hopefully it's something quick, get back to playing and help the team win. There will still be hopefully a lot of time before the season is over. Until they give me a timeline, I really don't know. I'm trying to stay optimistic, stay positive."

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