Jacoby Ellsbury gets plunked on the right wrist in the fifth inning of Saturday’s spring game.
TAMPA – One pitch in a meaningless spring training game nearly altered the course of the Yankees’ season.
Jacoby Ellsbury was drilled on the right wrist by a 90 mph fastball Saturday afternoon, leaving the Yankees holding their breath as they awaited test results.
“You don’t want to see it,” manager Joe Girardi said following the game. “I remember seeing it with (Curtis) Granderson a couple of years ago. It scares you. You keep your fingers crossed he’s OK.”
The team’s worst fears were alleviated about an hour after their 3-2 win over the Braves when X-rays and a CT scan on Ellsbury’s wrist came back negative.
The incident Girardi was referring to happened back in February 2013, when Granderson took a J.A. Happ pitch off his right forearm, suffering a fracture that kept him out of action until May. Granderson returned to action on May 14, playing only eight games before another stray pitch broke a bone in his hand.
Ellsbury, leading off the fifth inning, was hit by Braves starter Julio Teheran on a 2-2 pitch that struck him on the outside of his front wrist. He dropped his bat and began shaking his hand, wincing as trainer Gene Monahan rushed to the field to check on him.
Girardi, who was being interviewed on the YES Network at the time, reacted to the hit-by-pitch by saying, “Oh boy,” heading immediately to the field to check on his player.
Ellsbury didn’t lobby to stay in the game, leaving the field immediately as he was sent to a local hospital for tests.
“He was in pain,” Girardi said. “He had seam marks on his wrist.”
Although Ellsbury has never missed significant time for any hand or wrist injuries, he has had two issues with his left hand since 2013. The first was disclosed after Boston’s 2013 World Series run, when he was sent for an MRI for undisclosed issue that resulted in swelling and discoloration in his hand and forearm throughout the postseason.
Jacoby Ellsbury grimaces after being hit with a pitch from Atlanta Braves’ Julio Teheran.
The issue didn’t stop the Yankees from handing Ellsbury a seven-year, $ 153 million contract that winter. He went on to complain of a sore left hand near the end of April 2014, but tests came back negative and he wound up missing only one game. He hit .324 over the next eight games after returning to the lineup, showing no signs of a problem.
Ellsbury was 0-for-2 on Saturday before being hit by the pitch, though he had made a highlight-reel play on Nick Swisher’s deep fly to right-center field, diving at the warning track to steal an extra-base hit from the former Yankee.
Swisher offered a tip of the helmet to Ellsbury, while the Steinbrenner Field crowd gave him a standing ovation. Girardi applauded the play, though the manager admitted to holding his breath at the same time.
“You worry about that, too,” Girardi said of Ellsbury’s all-out effort. “That makes you feel good, that he runs a ball down like that, but you always worry when that’s in spring training.”
Ellsbury wasn’t previously slated to make Sunday’s trip to Fort Myers to play the Twins, so he’ll have two days to rest his wrist thanks to a conveniently scheduled off-day Monday.
Girardi said if Ellsbury is forced to miss any time, Aaron Hicks would take over in center field, leaving Brett Gardner in left field.
“Hicksy has played center,” Girardi said. “That’s the luxury of Hicksy, we can put him anywhere.”
The second half of March hasn’t been kind to Ellsbury since he signed with the Yankees. In 2014, he suffered a calf injury that kept him out of action for the final two weeks of spring training games. Last year, Ellsbury dealt with an oblique issue in mid-March, again keeping him benched for the last two weeks of spring.
Ellsbury has been on the disabled list five times during his career, dealing with injuries to his ribs, shoulder and knee. He missed 43 games last season with a right knee sprain, never quite getting on track in the second half after he returned.