The question for the New York Yankees begins to heat up: Is there room for Slade Heathcott on the roster when Jacoby Ellsbury returns? The 24-year-old has begun to turn some heads the past week with his bat and glove, but is he ready to wear the pinstripes full-time?
Since being called up on May 20 after Ellsbury went on the 15-day disabled list for a knee sprain, Heathcott has been a surprise addition to a Yankees team looking to fight their way out of a horrid stretch of games. Against the Texas Rangers on May 22, Heathcott was given his first start at center. In his first major-league at bat, he doubled. He finished that day going 2-for-3.
The next night, he helped out his team by batting in a run. Then the big moment came on Monday when Heathcott sent one over the right field fence for a two-run home run in the Yankees 14-1 win over the Kansas City Royals to end a six-game losing streak.
Now let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here. Heathcott has only started in three games and played in four this past week since being called up. It’s a strong start, no question about it, but would the Yankees dare to keep him on as a reserve outfielder and send somebody else down once a healthy Ellsbury returns?
That’s the question at hand here. But before we can answer that, the question for Joe Girardi to answer is when he believes Ellsbury will return to the lineup.
The good news Girardi received pertaining to Ellsbury was that the star outfielder and leadoff man will not need surgery for his knee. However, when asked about his return, Girardi did not specify a definite timetable for Ellbury, telling The Journal News:
“Will it be 15 days? I think it’s hard to say. I think it might be a little bit more, but the reason I say that is because of the type of player he is. This is not a guy that can just go swing and DH and not have to worry about running, so it’s really going to depend on treatment. Every injury depends on treatment and how they respond. Some are more predictable than others, but because of the type of player he is, it’s a little harder to predict.”
With the prospect of Ellsbury coming back sitting on the back burner, the Yankees will continue to look at Heathcott and see if his strong play holds up. With fellow outfielder Carlos Beltran fighting the flu, it appears all-but-guaranteed that Heathcott will continue to be given the chance to play.
Garrett Jones and Chris Young are also there to provide outfield assistance, but center field appears to be Heathcott’s position to lose. Let’s just hope that it’s just Ellsbury’s speedy recovery that causes Heathcott to hand the reins back over.