Veteran Outfielder Is Finally Healthy And Is Swinging The Bat With Purpose As Bombers Climb AL East Standings

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — He has been criticized for not living up to his end of the deal. Of late, however, he’s looked a lot more like the player the Yankees thought they were getting a few years back.

Jacoby Ellsbury is now in the third year of the seven-year, $153 million free agent contract he signed prior to the 2014 season. Since hitting .271 with 16 home runs and 70 RBI in his first season in pinstripes, the now-32-year-old outfielder has struggled with health and inconsistency and his numbers have plummeted.

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The $21 million-plus he makes per season has been viewed as an albatross around the Yankees’ neck. New York has made a concerted effort of late to avoid signing free agents to massive contracts, especially players at or near 30 years old. Ellsbury’s play last season, when he hit just .257 with 33 RBIs in 111 games, seemed to illustrate why.

But over the last 10 or so days, Ellsbury has looked more like the guy the Yankees thought they were getting when they initially targeted him to be a catalyst at the top of the lineup. As it appears he’s no longer bothered by the troublesome right hip that sidelined him for several games earlier this month, Ellsbury is hitting .355 (11-for-38) over the last eight games, with the Yankees winning six.

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His home run on Sunday, a 430-foot blast, powered the Yankees to a 5-4 victory and four-game sweep of the Athletics in Oakland.

Counted on along with Brett Gardner to be a table-setter at the top of the Yankees’ lineup, Ellsbury has raised his on-base percentage to .345, slightly above his career average.

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Overall, the Bombers have won 12 of 17 following their brutal 9-17 start and have moved into third place in the AL East, 5.5 games behind co-leaders Baltimore and Boston. New York will look to keep its momentum going following a 5-2 road trip when it opens a three-game series against Toronto on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.