Ellsbury stays at top of Yankees’ lineup

As hot as Jacoby Ellsbury has been, Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided not to mess with him and kept the fleet center fielder in the leadoff spot Tuesday night as he returned to the lineup after not starting the previous two games because of a sprained left ankle. Brett Gardner, who has been the Yankees’ leadoff hitter most of the season, was in the 3-hole for the first time this year.

“I left Jake in the 1-hole,” Girardi said before the game. “My concern when they both were going well was they are both going well, why move them? I put Jake in the 1-hole when Gardy got hurt. He did extremely well so I’ll leave him there and put Gardy third.”

Over his past 12 games, half of them batting leadoff, Ellsbury hit .467 with eight runs, two doubles, one triple, four home runs, 11 RBI and six stolen bases in 45 at-bats. Ellsbury was primarily a leadoff hitter during his years with the Red Sox. He has done well atop the lineup this year as well, batting .313 with a .361 on-base average in 31 games and 131 at-bats.

Gardner has batted leadoff in 101 games and 401 at-bats and hit .264 with a .340 on-base percentage and all 16 of his home runs, five of which have come leadoff off games. Gardner’s increased power gives makes him more of a candidate for the 3-hole than he had been perceived to be prior to this season.

With Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira beset with injuries this season, Ellsbury was called on to fill in as a 3-hole hitter, but he did not do as well as when he batted leadoff. He hit .277 with a .342 on-base percentage, eight home runs and 44 RBI in 305 at-bats over 93 games.

In addition, Ellsbury’s more daring base running would seem to serve him better in the leadoff spot. Girardi’s original decision was based on the fact that Ellsbury had more experience hitting third than Gardner, who has developed into one of the game’s premier leadoff hitters.

Regardless of where they have hit in the order, Ellsbury and Gardner have been the Yankees’ most consistent hitters. It will be interesting to see how long Girardi stays with this alignment.

Get used to some new names as the Yankees called up eight players from the minor leagues with rosters expanding this month. Added to the roster were pitchers Chase Whitley, Rich Hill, Bryan Mitchell, Preston Claiborne and Chaz Roe; catcher John Ryan Murphy and outfielders Chris Young, who began the season with the Mets, and Antoan Richardson. They released pitcher Matt Daley and designated outfielder Zoilo Almonte for assignment. In addition, the Yankees placed outfielder Slade Heathcott (knee surgery) and pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (right elbow partial ligament tear) on the 60-day disabled list, which is merely bookkeeping since rosters have expanded from 25 to up to 40.

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