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Ellsbury could hit 5th in Opening Day lineup

Yankees may have previewed order against Tigers on Tuesday
March 28, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees fielded a possible preview of their Opening Day lineup in a 6-3 loss against the Tigers on Tuesday, an order that features Gary Sanchez hitting second, Jacoby Ellsbury fifth, Aaron Hicks in right field and Ronald Torreyes at shortstop."This could very well be similar to

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees fielded a possible preview of their Opening Day lineup in a 6-3 loss against the Tigers on Tuesday, an order that features Gary Sanchez hitting second, Jacoby Ellsbury fifth, Aaron Hicks in right field and Ronald Torreyes at shortstop.
"This could very well be similar to our Opening Day lineup," said manager Joe Girardi, whose club will open the regular season on April 2 against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Girardi said that no decision has been made between Hicks and Aaron Judge in right field, but he indicated that it is "very possible" he will use Torreyes at shortstop in place of the injured Didi Gregorius. Girardi added that right-hander Adam Warren will begin the season in the bullpen.

Sanchez finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year Award balloting after hitting 20 home runs in 53 games, most of which saw him batting third. Sanchez said his focus would be the same no matter where he bats.
"It doesn't matter, because at the end of the day, if that's going to help win ballgames, I'm more than happy to hit there," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I'm still going to have chances to bring in runs. It's not like I'm not going to have anybody in front of me. I'm happy with it."
Possible Opening Day lineup
Brett Gardner, LF
Gary Sanchez, C
Greg Bird, 1B
Matthew Holliday, DH
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Starlin Castro, 2B
Chase Headley, 3B
Aaron Hicks, RF
Ronald Torreyes, SS
The most jarring change may be seeing Ellsbury in the No. 5 spot, where he has never started a game during his Major League career.
Girardi said that batting Ellsbury fifth allows the Yankees to alternate lefties and righties through the top five spots in the lineup, with leadoff hitter Gardner followed by Sanchez, Bird, Holliday and then Ellsbury.
"It's not like this came out of the blue. We've been thinking about it," Girardi said. "Do we have a traditional five-hitter? Maybe not, but we have a couple of guys that can really run. It's a little bit different."
Though Ellsbury hit a career-high 32 home runs in 2011 for the Red Sox, Girardi said the Yankees are not asking him to change his approach. Rather, they hope that the change of scenery might help Ellsbury improve upon a '16 season in which he batted .263/.330/.374 in 148 games.
"I look at Ells; he was really good in those RBI situations," Girardi said. "It does a couple of different things. Ells has got some pop in his bat. ... It's almost like you've got another leadoff guy in the middle of your order too. That helps too, I think. You spread out the guys who can run throughout your lineup."
Worth noting
The Yankees have re-signed left-hander Jonathon Niese to a Minor League contract. Niese was released on Sunday after posting a 4.50 ERA in six appearances (six innings) for New York this spring. Girardi said that Niese's arm strength was behind coming off season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee last August.

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