NEW YORK — Jacoby Ellsbury will be the designated hitter for the New York Yankees in the AL wild-card game, with manager Joe Girardi keeping Chase Headley and Matt Holliday on the bench.
Either Headley or Holliday was expected to be the DH on Tuesday night against Minnesota, but Girardi will instead have both available to pinch hit. Aaron Hicks is in center field, which is Ellsbury’s primary position. The 34-year-old Ellsbury has been a DH 12 times in his career, including four times this season.
Girardi was concerned about contending with Minnesota’s speed. The Twins were the best baserunning team in the majors, as measured by Fangraphs, and also improved dramatically on defense this season.
“They’re aggressive on the basepaths, so we’re putting the bigger arm in center field and someone with speed,” Girardi said, adding that he’s “going with the more athletic club.”
Headley will be among Girardi’s first options off the bench, with Holliday a candidate to bat against left-handed pitchers.
“It gives us more options off the bench,” Girardi said. “Because Headley is a switch-hitter, and you have Holliday that could — if we wanted to — who could hit for Ellsbury, so there are a bunch of different reasons.”
Brett Gardner will lead off for New York, with AL MVP contender Aaron Judge second. Right-hander Luis Severino will start for the Yankees.
The Twins will have second baseman Brian Dozier batting first, a spot he held in the lineup 151 times this year. Joe Mauer will bat second, with Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario behind him.
Minnesota is without slugger Miguel Sano, who was left off the wild-card roster Tuesday morning after failing to recover fully from an injured left shin.
Sano missed 38 games after fouling a ball off his leg, returning Friday as a pinch hitter and playing as Minnesota’s designated hitter Saturday and Sunday. He was pinch-hit for during Sunday’s regular-season finale after feeling discomfort in the leg.
Sano took batting practice Monday, but Molitor said the right-handed hitter couldn’t use the leg to brace himself during his swing.
“It was emotional for him, because I know he wants to play,” Molitor said.
Right-hander Ervin Santana is on the mound for Minnesota.
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