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Ellsbury prepping to reclaim center-field job

Yankees vet supplanted by Hicks in postseason, dangled as trade bait
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- As he reports for his fifth spring with the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury is in the unfamiliar position of having to fight for his place in the lineup, trying to reclaim a job after Aaron Hicks started all 13 of the team's postseason games in center field.

"I just know I have a ton of baseball left," Ellsbury said. "I'm excited to go out there and play. That's really it."

TAMPA, Fla. -- As he reports for his fifth spring with the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury is in the unfamiliar position of having to fight for his place in the lineup, trying to reclaim a job after Aaron Hicks started all 13 of the team's postseason games in center field.

"I just know I have a ton of baseball left," Ellsbury said. "I'm excited to go out there and play. That's really it."

Yankees Spring Training information

General manager Brian Cashman shopped the 34-year-old Ellsbury over the offseason, floating his availability to the Marlins as an initial part of the discussions for reigning National League MVP Award winner Giancarlo Stanton.

The Marlins rejected that offer, instead accepting a follow-up proposal that included second baseman Starlin Castro and two Minor League pitchers. Ellsbury said that he was never asked to waive his no-trade clause, and that he was excited to learn that the Yankees had acquired Stanton.

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"Obviously, a great player," Ellsbury said. "You add a player of his caliber to your team, you're going to be better. I came here to win. He makes us better, so I'm very happy with that addition."

Ellsbury hit .264/.348/.402 with seven homers, 39 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 112 games last season, a campaign that was impacted by a concussion sustained in a May 24 game against the Royals.

That forced Ellsbury to miss a month, and agent Scott Boras has said that Ellsbury came back from the injury too quickly, playing with "blurry vision." Ellsbury hit .200/.289/.333 from June 26 to Aug. 30 before helping the Yankees secure a postseason spot with a strong September.

Despite hitting .337/.436/.477 in 27 September games, Ellsbury was bypassed for most of the postseason, going hitless in nine at-bats with two walks as he made four starts at DH and two appearances off the bench.

"That was last year," Ellsbury said. "I'm just excited to be here. I feel healthy, I feel good. I'm excited to get going."

Ellsbury said that he recently had a casual lunch with manager Aaron Boone in Arizona, where they discussed the season ahead. Ellsbury said that his uncertain status will not alter his preparation.

"Every year, you come in and compete," Ellsbury said. "There's never one year that the lineup has been made already in my 10 years in the big leagues. Everyone comes in, works hard, there's not a lineup made up yet. That's how I look at it."

With $68 million remaining on Ellsbury's contract over the next three years, the Yankees likely would have to eat a significant portion if they were to complete a trade. When Ellsbury was asked if he would prefer to be a role player with the Yankees or a starter elsewhere, the question was waved off.

"I love playing. I'll just leave it at that," Ellsbury said. "That's why you play the game. I'll try to be the best teammate possible, whatever my role is. All I can do is just go out there and be prepared and help my team out whatever it might need. Ultimately, it's about winning."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury