Yanks could get Ellsbury back on homestand

Yanks could get Ellsbury back on homestand

HOUSTON -- Jacoby Ellsbury has packed his bags for a trip to Tampa, Fla., and the center fielder could reclaim his spot at the top of the batting order as soon as Friday, when the Yankees host the Rays in New York.

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The Yankees said that they anticipate Ellsbury will begin playing in Minor League rehabilitation games this week.

"I'm excited to get back playing in games sometime this week, and I can't wait to get back with the big league club," Ellsbury said.

Ellsbury has been on the disabled list since May 20 with a sprain of the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee, and manager Joe Girardi could have Ellsbury on his lineup card for the beginning of the homestand.

"We'll just go a day at a time," Girardi said after the Yankees' 3-1 loss to the Astros on Sunday. "The big thing is he needs to get some at-bats, know that his leg is OK and he can do everything he needs to do. ... We felt definitely better about it today. The key is how he feels tomorrow when he wakes up, see if he's a player."

Ellsbury was hitting .324 (48-for-148) with one homer, six RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 37 games. He has been hitting on the field and running bases, and Girardi has said that he does not believe that Ellsbury will need many at-bats in Minor League games to be ready.

In Ellsbury's absence, the Yankees are using Brett Gardner and Chris Young in center field. They have also given opportunities to rookies Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams, both of whom have since joined Ellsbury on the disabled list.

"It'd be great," Gardner said. "I just hope his knee is fully healed and I hope he feels great this week and doesn't have any problems. Especially for the kind of player that he is, any kind of lower body thing is tricky. We need to get him back to 100 percent.

"He's a big part of our team, a big part of our lineup. We've played pretty well without him, but we could be playing a whole lot better if he was here. Hopefully we get him back at the end of the week."

Additionally, Yankees left-hander Andrew Miller is progressing as he returns from a left forearm flexor muscle strain. Miller was scheduled to play catch again on Sunday, and Girardi said that they hope to have him resume throwing off a mound this week.

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.