Jacoby Ellsbury has experienced two pretty significant injuries in his career. He broke five ribs when he ran into Adrian Beltre while trying to make a catch in 2010, and he separated his shoulder while trying to break up a double play in 2012. There have been some other nagging things along the way, but those are the big ones for the guy who just signed for seven years and $153 million.
“Those are impact-full circumstances in a game that he plays hard at,” Brian Cashman said. “Something in his body gave, clearly. I can’t say I dismissed it. I recognize that this is someone who is a huge difference maker when you’re able to run him out there. We understand this is part of his history, and we certainly hope that we’ll have some success to keep him on the field, because when he was on the field he is a special player. We have a commitment with him without a doubt, but even if he had a pristine background as far his injury history, that doesn’t guarantee (he’ll be healthy going forward).”
The injury risk is one of the obvious negatives looming over this sort of long-term contract, but Ellsbury said he feels good this winter. The foot injury that bothered him in the postseason has healed and he’s able to work out and get himself prepared for what he’s expecting to be a full season.
“I play the game hard,” he said. “I play the game, I feel like, the right way. That’s what I take pride in, going out there each and every day and giving everything I have. It was just two unfortunate things. Me trying to make a play and colliding with Adrian Beltre. That’s a big guy to hit when you’re in a vulnerable position, and I feel like it was a freak accident and it healed. No ill effects of it. The second one was the same sort of thing. Trying to break up a double play for Dustin (Pedroia) and got landed on. Other than that, I’ve been good. Nothing. Those type of things feel like could happen to anybody at any given point. That’s what I take pride in is playing the right way, giving it all.”
• About the number 22: Obviously Ellsbury wasn’t getting No. 2 — that’s what he wore in Boston — and so No. 22 seems like a natural alternative, but it wasn’t necessarily the first alternative that came to mind. “(No. 2) has always just been a favorite number of mine,” Ellsbury said. “I’ve always liked it. I’ve just always liked the number. The previous numbers I’ve had: I was No. 46 with the Red Sox. That was taken, obviously, by Andy. No. 23 is retired. That was another number I wore in college. Twenty two, I’ve never worn that number, but 2 is my favorite number, so why not have two of them?”
• Although Ellsbury is a left-handed hitter, Cashman said he’s not expecting a significant surge in Ellsbury’s home run total. “I’m not looking for that,” Cashman said. “I certainly don’t want him to change his approach because of the ballpark. We just want the same player that he was in Boston. We’re not projecting he’s going to have home runs jump because he’s here.”
• Ellsbury on his approach to Yankee Stadium: “I’ve always felt comfortable playing here. It’s a comfortable stadium for me to play in., I feel very good. I fell I don’t have to change my swing. I don’t have to do anything different. My style of play is going to play great in this ballpark.”
• After playing through a compression fracture in his foot during the postseason, Ellsbury said he’s fully healthy today and able to go through his normal offseason workouts. “We felt that I could go out there (in the playoffs) and hopefully play and not make it worse,” Ellsbury said. “There was no question I was going to play in the postseason.”
• Ellsbury said even he was caught off guard by how quickly the deal came together. “There were numerous teams that I had to make a decision on,” he said. “But when the Yankees called and let me know how much they wanted me, that’s when the discussions really moved fast. I’ve never been a free agent before, so I wasn’t really, I didn’t know how fast things could move. Once I started talking to them things moved very quick, and I’m happy it got done in a quick and timely manner so I can have a normal off-season, get into my offseason workouts.”
• We hear a lot about players reaching out to recruit free agents. That definitely happened for Ellsbury, who said both Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira called to sell him on the idea of playing in New York. “(They said), you’re going to have a really good time here,” Ellsbury said. “With what the city has to offer, the fans, just a good organization, being first-class, the history. But I knew about the history and everything. They didn’t need to tell me about that. It was nice hearing from the guys. They reached out and called me, so I appreciate that.”
• Cashman said what he’s been saying for a while about Ellsbury and Brett Gardner: “I have two center fielders on this team that I’m excited about,” Cashman said. “We have a more real estate to cover at this stadium for 81 games than most teams outfields, so we are very fortunate to have – like we’ve done for the last number of years – two center fielders manning two of the spots in the outfield.”
• Final word will, naturally, go to Ellsbury: “The biggest thing I’ve always enjoyed is the expectation of winning. We had that in Boston, you have it in New York and the fans expect you to win. That drives me to push my game and compete at a high level each and every night. That was something that I loved about Boston and I know I’m going to enjoy it about New York, the expectation of winning.”
Associated Press photos