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Ellsbury improving, but no baseball activities yet

Tanaka working toward simulated game in rehab
Special to MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is confident the myriad injuries that have derailed his season will soon be behind him and that he will return to the field in 2018.

Ellsbury, who has been working out at the team's Minor League complex in Tampa, Fla., spoke to reporters before New York's game against the Rays on Friday night at Tropicana Field. The 34-year-old has yet to begin baseball-related activities and did not have a timeline on when he might do so.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is confident the myriad injuries that have derailed his season will soon be behind him and that he will return to the field in 2018.

Ellsbury, who has been working out at the team's Minor League complex in Tampa, Fla., spoke to reporters before New York's game against the Rays on Friday night at Tropicana Field. The 34-year-old has yet to begin baseball-related activities and did not have a timeline on when he might do so.

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"I'm getting better," Ellsbury said. "I'm doing just exercises and treatment, ice and that sort of thing. Moving ahead in the right direction."

Ellsbury, who is in the fifth year of a seven-year, $153 million contract, started the season on the disabled list with a right oblique strain sustained during Spring Training. His rehab timeline has been set back by a hip pointer, back stiffness and plantar fasciitis in his right heel. He said that the process has been frustrating, especially as his team has put together the best record in baseball.

"You just want to be out there and, obviously, you do everything you can down here to get back as soon as possible," he said.

Due to the depth of the Yankees' outfield, manager Aaron Boone said that there hasn't been a lot of urgency to push Ellsbury before he is fully healthy.

"We are trying to get him back to the point where he is doing baseball activities," Boone said. "I think in some ways he is close to getting there, but he still has to clear some hurdles."

That depth got a little bit deeper with the return of Brett Gardner, who was back in the Yankees' starting lineup on Friday, batting leadoff and playing left field. Although he managed to avoid a trip to the DL, Gardner had missed the last five games with left knee soreness.

"I think he's been anxious to get back the last couple of days," Boone said. "Just kind of playing it safe. With the lefty yesterday in the day game, we thought we'd wait one more day. He's good to go and I'm looking forward to our igniter -- and our heartbeat, to a degree -- being back in there."

Gardner's return pushes Clint Frazier back into a bench role, despite batting .368 with seven runs scored in his seven games played this season.

Tanaka throws long toss

Starter Masahiro Tanaka (hamstrings) threw 20 pitches from flat ground and played some long toss on Friday. Boone said that Tanaka will throw a bullpen session with the team on Sunday and stay behind to throw another session at the team's Minor League complex on Tuesday.

"I think he's progressing well, and today was another step along the way," Boone said.

If everything goes well, Tanaka (7-2, 4.58 ERA) will throw a simulated game "at some point next week" before beginning a rehab assignment.

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.

New York Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury