Ellsbury’s Absence, Concerns About Beltran Could Shake Up the Yankees Outfield

So there the Yankees were in the bottom of the seventh inning in Wednesday’s game against the Washington Nationals. With the game tied at two with one out and runners on first and second for the Nationals, Dan Uggla pops one up in foul territory towards shallow right field. As right fielder Carlos Beltran was running it down, one would think that the 18-year veteran would be capable of catching it and getting the second out of the inning to help get Adam Warren and the Yankees out of trouble. Instead, Beltran, who has had a recent history of injuries, particularly to his elbow, decided to pull up and not pursue the potential foul out, which kept Uggla’s at bat alive.

As the at bat continued, Warren gave up a walk to Uggla, loading the bases for Denard Span. Left hander Justin Wilson was called in to pitch to the lefty Span. Span responded by chopping one past shortstop Didi Gregorius to bring home Wilson Ramos to give the Nats a 3-2 lead which they would hold onto to win the game and sweep the Bombers in the two-game series.

Beltran has been taking a lot of heat for aborting his pursuit of the foul ball that could have otherwise prevented Span from hitting in the winning run. Had Ramos still been at second, he may or may not have been given the green light to come home on that play with Brett Gardner ready to field it. Also, had there been two outs, Gregorius, who was playing at double-play depth during Span’s at bat, would have been in better position to field the ball and get the third out.

The Yankees, who are now one out of their last eight, are now dealing with the struggles of a depleted outfield. With Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list with a sprained knee, manager Joe Girardi is looking at Chris Young to replace his star outfielder. When Ellsbury left Tuesday night’s game, Young, who was playing right field, was shifted over to center while Beltran replaced Ellsbury in the lineup and played right.

With Beltran’s shortcomings in Wednesday night’s game, it is no wonder now why Girardi did not decide to put Beltran in center field for Tuesday or Wednesday’s game. The 38-year-old was once a reliable center fielder, especially when he was with the Mets. But his recent injuries and surgeries have slowed him down, and after Wednesday, the Yankees are taking a closer look at that, and may start utilizing some of their younger talent.

As a result of Ellsbury’s injury, the Yankees called up minor league outfielder Slade Heathcott, who with the Yankees’ AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders this season was batting .285 in 151 at bats with one home run and 17 RBIs. Heathcott made his major league debut in Wednesday night’s game pinch running for Mark Teixeira in the top of the eigth and played center field in that bottom half.

As the Yankees are set to begin a six-game home stand tonight with a three-game series against the Texas Rangers, it’ll be interesting to see if Heathcott gets a chance to play at any point this series. In 22 games in center field for the Railriders this season, he compiled a .984 fielding percentage with just one error to his credit.

With that knowledge and using the Nationals series as a reference, fans will be anxious to see what kind of outfield arrangement Girardi has in mind for this series against the Rangers. With the 18-23 Rangers set to have Colby Lewis pitching tonight against Michael Pineda, maybe the comfort of having Pineda on the mound will help give Girardi the green light to start Heathcott. If so, we would assume that it would be Brett Gardner in left, Slade Heathcott in center and Chris Young in right. But we’ll definitely keep an eye out for it.

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