Ellsbury unlikely to return by end of June

Gardner doesn't start against tough lefty Keuchel

Ellsbury unlikely to return by end of June

HOUSTON -- It appears doubtful that Jacoby Ellsbury will be able to meet his goal of returning to the Yankees' lineup by the end of the month, as the outfielder is still not considered ready to resume playing in games.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Ellsbury will join the team in Houston this week to continue his rehab from a sprained right lateral collateral ligament in his right knee, but there has been no target date set for him to begin a Minor League assignment.

"He's still not there yet," Girardi said. "We need to get him to run 100 percent before we feel comfortable sending him out on a short rehab."

Ellsbury has not played since May 19, when he caught a spike in the batter's box at Nationals Park, twisting his knee. He ran the bases and took batting practice during the Yankees' recent homestand, and Girardi estimated that Ellsbury seemed to be running at 75 to 85 percent effort.

"You want to see him turn it loose, be able to feel good the next day and say there are no issues," Girardi said. "What you don't want is where you could take maybe three more days as opposed to a guy going out and getting hurt again, then you're back to square one, in a sense. We just have to make sure he's ready."

• The Yankees fielded a lineup Thursday that did not include leadoff hitter Brett Gardner and, for a second straight game, catcher Brian McCann. Girardi said there are no injury concerns with either player; the moves were made in hopes of stacking the lineup with right-handed hitters against Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel.

Everyone is fine," Girardi said. "Just choosing to give Gardy a day off. He's played every day in this stretch, Keuchel has been extremely tough on left-handers, so I'm putting as many right-handers as I can in there. They'll both be back out there [Friday]."

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.