HARTFORD — For the first time in team history, the Hartford Yard Goats hosted a major league player on a rehab assignment at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
That player happened to be New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who was with the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate, for the finale of a three-game Eastern League series.
Ellsbury has been sidelined with a concussion and neck sprain following a play on May 24 in which he made a spectacular catch crashing into the wall. Before his injury, Ellsbury was having a very good to start to the season. He is working his way back from injury.
“We take things day by day,” Ellsbury said Thursday afternoon. “We make a plan every day and go from there and, for the most part, we’re progressing each and every day.”
Ellsbury worked out in the outfield Thursday afternoon. He did several stretches and agility drills. He also took batting practice with the Thunder.
He did not play in Thursday night’s game. There is no set timetable for his return to the big-league club.
“I’m doing a lot of work you would do during spring training that you would do to get ready for a season,” said Ellsbury. “I’m feeling better and inching closer each day, and I’m excited to get back out there a start playing.”
The Yankees outfield with Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Brett Gardner has played exceptionally well in Ellsbury’s absence. That being said, adding a three-time American League stolen base leader into the fold can only help.
“The next step is to intensify what we do, whether that be batting cages, fly balls or base running,” said Ellsbury. “This way, when I’m back with big league club, I’ll have done all of that and be confident in just being out there.”
It’s not every day that a Double-A player gets to be in the presence of such an accomplished Major Leaguer. For Trenton Thunder outfielder, Billy McKinney, he got to play alongside Ellsbury and other members of the New York Yankees during spring training in Tampa.
“It was awesome, especially learning from Ellsbury, who’s a really good mentor,” said McKinney. “He’s been such a great player for so many years, so it was an honor just to be around him.”
McKinney was a first-round draft pick of the Oakland A’s out of high school in 2014. He’s already been involved in two major trades in his young career. He was part of the package that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs to the A’s. He was more recently involved in the 2016 trade that sent Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees to the Cubs.
“It gives me the chills a little bit,” said McKinney. “It’s an honor being in that trade and I’m glad the Yankees brought me over here. It’s great being around him and seeing how he goes about his business, which is a reason why he’s one of the best closers in the game.”
Chapman, back with the Yankees, though now rehabbing from injury, is also with Trenton, but did not accompany the team to Hartford.
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