Monday, March 17, 2014

Jacoby Ellsbury: Spring kinks or sign of things to come?

New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was slated to hit in the batting cage Monday even before the team’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was rained out. Ellsbury has not played since Saturday due to a tight right calf muscle.

According to multiple reports this morning, including this one from Chad Jennings of The Journal News, Ellsbury may also sit out Tuesday against his former team, the Boston Red Sox, per Yankees manager Joe Girardi. I’m fairly certain the Yankees are being extra cautious here, but at the same time it does bring up some concern where Ellsbury is involved.

Red Sox fans often complained that Ellsbury wouldn’t step on the field if he wasn’t 100 percent. Even in a season where he was mostly healthy, he finally fell victim to a compression fracture in his right foot causing him to miss most of Sept. 2013. In all, Ellsbury missed 28 games in 2013. Fortunately for Ellsbury, he was fantastic when on the field (.298/.355/.426 with 92 runs and 52 stolen bases) and the Yankees opened the vault with a seven-year, $153 million deal.

So, is this recent bout with a tight calf simply part of the aches and pains associated with spring training or is it a sign of things to come where it concerns Ellsbury and how often he steps on the field in 2014?

I asked this question via social media and received varied responses -- some said it was kinks and others said this was something Yankee fans should simply get used to.

I’m trying to be optimistic and I assume if this was the regular season, Ellsbury would indeed be in the lineup. He said as much Sunday. He’s sitting out because these games don’t matter and why force the issue in mid-March? I get the logic and actually agree with it, but it doesn’t make me feel very confident about how the season is going to progress.

I expect that Ellsbury will be a productive player when he is on the field, but I also suspect that we will see Brett Gardner in center field for more than a handful of games in 2014 and beyond.

Maybe Gardner’s recent extension (four years, $52 million starting in 2015) was an expensive insurance policy for Ellsbury? That’s a lot of cash wrapped up in four legs.

What do you say? Kinks or typical Ellsbury? Let me know in the comments.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.