'Very unlikely' Ellsbury ready by Opening Day

March 19th, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees do not expect to be ready for Opening Day, which is creating possibilities for Aaron Boone as the rookie manager works to finalize his first 25-man roster.

Boone said on Monday that Ellsbury, who has been out since March 2 with a right oblique strain, remains sidelined with flu-like symptoms, which will prevent him from playing in Tuesday's scheduled exhibition against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. As such, Boone said that he doubts Ellsbury could be ready for the March 29 opener at Toronto.

"Opening Day? I don't think so at this point," Boone said. "It's just going to be too hard to get him into enough games, enough at-bats. I don't think we've totally closed the door on that yet, but I would say it's very unlikely."

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The 34-year-old Ellsbury was scheduled to hit off left-hander in a simulated game on Monday, but the Yanks scratched that due to a fever that has lingered for the last couple of days.

The 2011 All-Star has been limited to four games this spring, collecting one hit in 10 at-bats. He was projected to serve as a backup outfielder behind the rotating cast of , , and .

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"The good thing is, at least we feel like he's totally healed up from his injury," Boone said. "He should be able to get going as soon as he gets rid of this bug."

Ellsbury's anticipated absence is fueling discussions behind closed doors, with personnel debating if they are best served using the vacant spot on a position player or a 13th pitcher.

"There's a lot of ways we can go, if we want to go with an extra pitcher, the extra position player," Boone said. "Those will be conversations that we'll have that will remain fluid all week and we will hammer out together. As far as speculating, I'll let you do that."

Should the Yankees carry an extra pitcher, Boone mentioned , , and as candidates. Although Cessa has a 6.75 ERA in three spring starts spanning 5 1/3 innings, the other three right-handers have pitched notably.

German has a 2.84 ERA in 12 2/3 innings, striking out 15 against six walks. Heller has a 2.00 ERA in nine innings, striking out 12 against three walks. Holder crafted a 2.25 ERA in eight innings, walking none and striking out 11.

"I'm just trying to focus one day at a time, competing and trying to get better," Holder said. "There was some stuff that I experienced last year that I knew I needed to get better at. It was getting back to basics: fastball command, pounding the strike zone and being competitive."

Complicating the matter would be that Cessa and German are viewed as starting pitchers, and Boone said that he'd prefer to keep his starters built up.

On the position player side, Boone said that they would not necessarily carry an outfielder to replace Ellsbury. One year after his spring was cut short by a fractured left foot, has played well, batting .233/.343/.667 with four homers and 10 RBIs.

"I feel like it's gone well," Austin said. "I still have a lot of stuff to improve on, but for the most part, I've put together some good at-bats and battled out there. Last spring I was rolling around on a scooter, so having a chance to come into camp healthy and feeling good has been a blessing."

's bat has cooled after a hot start; the Yankees' No. 19 prospect as ranked by MLB Pipeline, has a .179/.395/.607 slash line with four homers and 11 RBIs.

Boone plans to have his decisions finalized before the Yankees travel for a March 26 exhibition at SunTrust Park.

"I would like to have our team in place and know what we're going with to Toronto," Boone said.