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Jacoby Ellsbury still 'not where he needs to be'

BALTIMORE -- For the better part of the past three weeks, the Yankees have continued to maintain that Jacoby Ellsbury, on the DL since May 20 with a right knee sprain, has been improving on virtually a daily basis. And yet, aside from running in the outfield -- manager Joe Girardi estimated his efforts as "60 percent'' on Friday -- Ellsbury has done very little baseball activity and there is still no timetable for his return.

Although he was spotted in the weight room, Ellsbury did not appear on the field at all before Saturday night's game against the Orioles, and in his pregame news conference Girardi acknowledged that the pain in Ellsbury's knee is still not completely gone.

"It's been pretty good, but it's still not where it needs to be,'' Girardi said. "I still think that there's a little feeling in there that he probably has to get rid of. I wouldn't call it, he's in a lot of pain, but it's not quite ready.''

A further indicator of how close Ellsbury is to beginning a rehab assignment will come on Tuesday night, when the Yankees return to New York after their two-game mini-series against the Marlins in Miami. If Ellsbury is not on the team plane to New York, it is a good sign, meaning he is headed to Tampa to begin a rehab assignment. If he is on the plane, it is bad, meaning the club is not ready to put him into minor league games yet, or start the 30-day clock for his return.

Interestingly enough, on Friday Girardi made it seem like almost a certainty that Ellsbury would be left behind in Florida, although a few moments later GM Brian Cashman said that decision had not been made yet. And on Saturday, Girardi, too, hedged on where Ellsbury's next destination would be.

“A ligament is a tricky thing, so you have to make sure he’s ready,” Girardi said. "I said our hope is that he’ll stay in Florida. That’s our hope. If he’s not ready, he won’t. If we feel that he’s ready after Miami, we’ll leave him there. If he’s not, we’ll have to change our plan.”