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Mark Teixeira back, Jacoby Ellsbury still out for Yankees

NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira's brief absence from the New York Yankees lineup is over. After missing two games with neck spasms, Teixeira is back in the lineup Thursday, batting third and playing first base as the Yankees wrap up a four-game series against the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who has not played since injuring his right hip Friday, is still not well enough to play. Judging by the way he ran on the field before Thursday's game -- at about three-quarter speed and on the grass only, not on the basepaths -- his return could still be a couple of days away.

"I'm chomping at the bit to be out there," Ellsbury said after his brief workout. "I'm going through treatment four, five times a day, just to do everything I can to be out there as soon as possible. And that's what I'm working for, to avoid the DL, and do everything I can to be out there."

But asked if he felt well enough even to pinch-hit Thursday, Ellsbury said, "I guess I want them to think I am. That's the strategy behind it, you know? But yeah, I'm definitely pleased with the progress I've made."

Confusing? Of course. Ellsbury said he took swings in the cage at "lower intensity" and did not feel any discomfort in the hip, which he injured when he stopped short between third and home in the first inning of Friday's game against the Boston Red Sox.

Asked if the pain was completely gone, he said, "Oh, I mean I still feel it, but it's definitely better today than it was yesterday."

It raised the question of why the Yankees have still not decided to put Ellsbury on the DL, especially since they sent outfielder Ben Gamel back to Triple-A Scranton on Thursday afternoon and brought up LHP Tyler Olson. That means their usable bench consists of Dustin Ackley and Ronald Torreyes.

General manager Brian Cashman said that with Teixeira returning to action and Ackley, who misplayed two balls at first base in Wednesday night's disastrous first inning, returning to the outfield, the Yankees could survive another day or two without Ellsbury.

"We would have put him down if we thought he needed to DL," Cashman said. "The full expectation is that the DL wouldn't be the issue for him, and that's what it's been. Every day he has been improving, feeling better and better, articulating it and increasing his workload. Hopefully by this weekend we'll have full abilities at our disposal."

Here's the full lineup facing ex-Yank Ian Kennedy:

Brett Gardner LF
Starlin Castro 2B
Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann DH
Carlos Beltran RF
Aaron Hicks CF
Didi Gregorius SS
Chase Headley 3B
Austin Romine C

Nathan Eovaldi (2-2, 4.78) P