Ellsbury returns to lineup, makes diving catch

Center fielder leads off in what will likely be Yankees' batting order vs. righties

Ellsbury returns to lineup, makes diving catch

TAMPA, Fla. -- With Jacoby Ellsbury restored to the top of the batting order on Sunday, the Yankees embraced the opportunity to peek at what could be their regular lineup against right-handed pitching.

Ellsbury returned to action for the first time since being hit on the right wrist by a pitch last Saturday, going hitless in the Yankees' 5-2 loss to the Twins.

"It felt good," Ellsbury said. "It was nice to be out there. Definitely a warm one. The at-bats felt good. I was pleased with the first day."

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So was manager Joe Girardi, who trotted out a lineup that featured Ellsbury and Brett Gardner at the top, followed by Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann.

Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley, Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius occupied the bottom four spots of an order that Girardi believes is deeper than last year's.

"It's nice. Really nice," Girardi said. "This is the week you want your guys playing. If you're going to miss some time, you don't want them missing this week. To have all nine of them out there today was nice."

Early in camp, Girardi said that he was hesitant to stack three left-handed bats in the 9-1-2 spots, though he said on Sunday that he is now open to the idea of having Gregorius, Ellsbury and Gardner in a row.

"It's something we're still going to talk about a little bit more," Girardi said. "We haven't talked a lot about it because we're trying to make decisions on who we're going to have [on the roster]."

Ellsbury is expected to be in the lineup again on Monday evening against the Tigers. The Yankees watched closely when Ellsbury dove for Juan Centeno's liner in the fifth inning, but Ellsbury said there were no issues.

"I didn't want to dive, but you have to make the play," Ellsbury said. "I wasn't thinking about [the wrist] on the dive. If you don't need to dive, I'd rather not, but I had to in that situation. I was pleased with everything."

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.