Off DL, Sanchez behind the plate at Wrigley

Off DL, Sanchez behind the plate at Wrigley

CHICAGO -- The Yankees welcomed Gary Sanchez back to the lineup for Friday's series opener with the Cubs at Wrigley Field, with the power-hitting catcher reporting that his right biceps felt "100 percent" following a brief Minor League rehabilitation stint.

Sanchez was behind the plate to catch Michael Pineda after playing three games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Lehigh Valley this week, catching twice and serving as the designated hitter on Thursday. Sanchez was 5-for-13 (.385) with two doubles, a homer and three RBIs for the RailRiders.

To make room for Sanchez on the 25-man roster, rookie Kyle Higashioka was optioned back to Triple-A.

"Very happy to be back. The guys have done a great job here," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "Higgy and Romine have done an excellent job. I'm happy to be back. Hopefully I have the opportunity to contribute. The team has played great baseball and I just want to be part of that."

Sanchez had been on the disabled list since April 8 due to a right biceps strain, sustained while fouling a ball off against the Orioles in Baltimore. He was 3-for-20 (.150) with one homer and two RBIs after slugging 20 homers in 53 games last season, a performance which helped him place second in balloting for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

"It's another big bat," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's another guy that hits the ball out of the ballpark, so it could mean a lot. He didn't get off to quite the start that he got off to last year, but he'll get going and he'll be a big part of our offense."

Bombers bits

Jacoby Ellsbury (bruised nerve in left elbow) was scheduled to hit in the batting cage on Friday, and Girardi said that Ellsbury is getting closer to being back on the field. Ellsbury injured the elbow crashing into the center-field wall at Yankee Stadium on Monday against the Blue Jays.

Matt Holliday has six hits in his last 21 at-bats, and Girardi said that it was difficult to take the slugger out of the lineup in a National League park. Girardi said that he is considering having Holliday start at first base during the Yanks' series against the Cubs. Holliday did not play a single inning in the field this spring, but he has been taking ground balls.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. 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.