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Jacoby Ellsbury injuries are part of the $153M equation

WASHINGTON -- Jacoby Ellsbury has shown some signs this season as to why he is a $153 million man. Nearly a quarter of the way through the season, there have more than a few flashes when Ellsbury has shown the ability to get on base and create runs, while playing excellent defense. It has been a reminder of how dynamic he can be.

But the issue with Ellsbury's big deal the whole time -- besides the fact that he has only had one truly standout season in his career -- is that he has been fragile. Ellsbury is an amazing athlete, but he hasn't been able to stay on the field enough.

Now, he is going to on the DL with a sprained right knee. Joe Giardi said he didn't think it was serious, but this is Ellsbury so there has to be concern because his whole game is built on his legs.

It is another blow for a spiraling team that has lost six of seven to drop to 22-18 and into a tie for first place with the Rays in the meek AL East.

Ellsbury has been prone to injuries, playing just 18 games in 2010 and 74 in 2012. Sandwiched in between those two bad seasons were his one near MVP season in 2011 when he hit 32 homers.

He has only played more than 150 games twice in his career. As his 32nd birthday arrives in September and still another five years on his deal, who thinks these numbers are going to improve? So knee injuries that occur while swinging a bat are part of the $153 million package.

The Yankees have some alternatives. Chris Young has played well enough that he has been pushing Carlos Beltran for playing time in right. Young, though, really excels as a specialist against lefties. More at-bats might mean might mean more exposure.

Beltran has hit the ball better lately, as evidence by his 10-game hitting streak. Brett Gardner -- who is nearly the same player as Ellsbury for nearly one-third the price -- could slide over from left to center to give the Yankees the same defense.

In bringing up Slade Heathcott, the Yankees have a player who is suddenly exciting them again. Heathcott is a tremendous story, as the former first round pick has dealt with alcohol, family and injury issues for a long time. Now, just 11 weeks after he and his wife had their first child, he is in the big show.

His speed and athleticism might be fun to watch. He might get a chance to play against righties.

Maybe this is just a speed bump for Ellsbury. He could be out for two weeks and then back in June, as good as new.

But last year, we saw Ellsbury fade in the second half. His on-base dropped from .346 in the first half to just .298 in the second. When you add a knee issue into the equation, that is not a good for a man who leads the American League in stolen bases and has a .412 on-base.

Ellsbury and Gardner have been a tremendous combo, making Joe Girardi's decision to keep Derek Jeter in the No. 2 hole last year looking even sillier in hindsight. When the Yankees have been good this year, the Ellsbury-Gardner duo has been leading the way.

The thing about Ellsbury is at times he has seemed invisible as a Yankee and maybe not worth the money he will be paid.

With his stay on the DL, we might find a little more about his value. If Girardi platoons a guy like Heathcott with Young, it might be fascinating to watch the production.

Yankee fans have long wanted to see some youth on their team. Heatchott is just 24 with all kinds of talent and a new attitude. The Yankees are going to need some production, because, overall, they are hurting as much as their center fielder's right knee.