Jacoby Ellsbury, signed to a $153 million contract by the Yankees less than two years ago, was left out of New York's starting lineup for Tuesday night's AL Wild Card Game against Houston.
With left-hander Dallas Keuchel starting for the Astros, Yankees manager Joe Girardi wants to get right-handed-hitting Chris Young in the starting lineup. Brett Gardner took Ellsbury's spot in center field and atop the batting order.
"Something that I mulled over for a couple days," Girardi said. "When it came down to it in the end, it was Gardy's numbers against left-handers this year compared to Jacoby's."
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Keuchel beat the Yankees twice this year, pitching a six-hit shutout June 25 and seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball Aug. 25. Gardner did not play in either game; Ellsbury was 2 for 4 in the second one.
"I told him I wanted to play, but then I let him know I'll obviously be ready to go at any point in the game and willing to do whatever it takes for this team to win," Ellsbury said.
Girardi said he made the decision at 3 p.m., about five hours before the scheduled first pitch.
"One thing I told Ells is that you're going to be in this game," the manager recalled. "I can understand if he's frustrated and upset."
Since the All-Star break, Ellsbury has hit .220 with five homers and 23 RBI and Gardner has batted .206. But Gardner has hit .263 against lefties over the span and Ellsbury .223.
Young, who was batting second and playing left field, entered 6 for 20 (.300) against Keuchel.
New York's starting lineup included a pair of rookies: Greg Bird at first and Rob Refsnyder at second. Bird took over when Mark Teixeira broke a leg when he fouled off a pitch.
Refsnyder played four games for the Yankees in July, then hit .355 (11 for 31) during a September call-up.
"He's done a real good job seizing his opportunity," Girardi said. "He's been patient at the plate. He has never seemed overwhelmed."
Girardi included starting pitchers Luis Severino and Ivan Nova as part of an eight-man bullpen behind starter Masahiro Tanaka -- joined by Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Adam Warren, James Pazos and Bryan Mitchell. Severino and Nova likely would be limited to an inning each.
"All semblance of an order of our bullpen is kind of off right now in a one-game playoff," Girardi said.
Pazos got the lefty opening created when CC Sabathia left the team this week to enter an alcohol rehabilitation center. Girardi would not say whether there would be alcohol in the clubhouse after the game should the Yankees win.
"We'll celebrate accordingly," he said. "We'll just do what we feel is appropriate."
Girardi included three catchers on the 25-man roster: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy and Gary Sanchez. Girardi said Sanchez was on the roster in case the Yankees trailed in the middle innings and he wanted to pinch run for McCann. Sanchez was picked over Austin Romine because Sanchez caught regularly for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. .