Red Sox wary of Yankees’ Ellsbury

New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (22) and his teammates walk on to the field prior to the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Park.
Tommy Gilligan | USA Today Sports
New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (22) and his teammates walk on to the field prior to the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Park.
Posted March 19, 2014, at 5:12 p.m.
Last modified March 19, 2014, at 7:15 p.m.

TAMPA, Fla. — Jacoby Ellsbury is still nursing a sore right calf, so Red Sox manager John Farrell was spared Tuesday from seeing how his ex-leadoff hitter looked as a Yankee on the field.

But that day is coming: Circle April 10, when the defending world champs visit the Bronx and the game’s most storied rivalry is renewed – with another striking twist.

“He’s a damn good player. The longer we can keep him off the bases, the less chance he has to create havoc,” Farrell said. “He’s a dynamic leadoff guy. They got a good player, a very good player.”

Sidelined since Sunday, Ellsbury won’t play until Friday, at the earliest. “He still feels a little something,” said manager Joe Girardi. “We’ll see how the next two days goes.”

So, Brett Gardner was back in the leadoff spot Tuesday afternoon and collected three hits in the Yankees’ 8-1 Grapefruit League victory against thinned-out Sox lineup.

“Just walking around I feel fine,” said Ellsbury, who hit indoors Tuesday. “I’ll know before I even step on that field that it’ll be fine when I (return to) play. We just want it 100 percent.”

The full measure of the new Yankees’ offense won’t seem complete until Ellsbury is in there.

“They can manufacture runs, they can hit the long ball, you’ve got speed to contend with,” Farrell said of a revised Yankee lineup that also includes Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. “It’s a diverse offense.”

And the combination of Ellsbury and Gardner is “in some ways similar to the (Shane) Victorino-Ellsbury combination of a year ago,” said Farrell. “It just gives you another element to contend with.”

Leaning on a Red Sox travel bag in the Yanks’ clubhouse, Ellsbury mentioned the “very easy transition” to date from being a two-time Red Sox world champion to life as a Yankee. But he’s still struck by how quickly the Yankees moved to sign him to a seven-year, $153 million.

And with the sting of champagne barely out of his eyes, Farrell felt the same way.

“To make that decision that quick in the off-season, obviously they were very aggressive going toward him,” Farrell said.

These days, the Yankees move cautiously with Ellsbury, 30, careful that a tight calf doesn’t become a bigger issue. Ellsbury might be held back for a full week, and he’s sure to skip Thursday’s trip to Fort Myers against the Red Sox.

“(I’ve got) a lot of friends over there, and I’ll continue to have those relationships with those guys down the road,” said Ellsbury, having freshly left a 2013 Red Sox club that Farrell called: “The closest-knit team I’ve ever been around in 30 years of baseball.”

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