NEW YORK — Joe Girardi is happy to see Jacoby Ellsbury in Yankees pinstripes instead of the uniform of the rival Boston Red Sox.
“You are going to make my job a lot easier,” the New York manager told his new outfielder. “You no longer are a thorn in my side. You are a flower in our clubhouse, and I’m happy to have you.”
Ellsbury agreed to a $153 million, seven-year contract Dec. 3, and the deal was completed four days later. He was formally introduced Friday at a Yankee Stadium news conference, part of an offseason transformation that has seen New York add Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran while watching Robinson Cano depart.
Ellsbury will wear No. 22 with the Yankees, taking over the number of Roger Clemens, another Boston star who moved south to New York.
No. 2, Ellsbury’s uniform with the Red Sox, belongs to Yankees captain Derek Jeter. Ellsbury was No. 23 in college, but that’s retired in honor of Don Mattingly. And Ellsbury started his big league career with No. 46, which was worn by Andy Pettitte and isn’t being given out any time soon, if at all.
“Twenty-two, I’ve never worn that number, but 2 is my favorite number, so why not have two of them?” Ellsbury said.
A lefty-hitting leadoff man, the 30-year-old led the majors with 52 steals despite a broken foot late this season. He finished with a .298 average, nine homers and 53 RBIs.
Ellsbury spent 158 days on the disabled list in 2010 after breaking ribs in a collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre. He was on the DL for 90 days in 2012, when he dislocated his right shoulder when sliding into Rays shortstop Reid Brignac while trying to break up a double-play in Boston’s home opener.
“I play the game hard. I play the game I feel like the right way,” Ellsbury said. “It was just two unfortunate things.”
He didn’t go on the DL this year, when he was limited to 134 games by a broken bone in his right foot that he played on throughout the postseason before it completely healed.
“’I already made my mind up I would play in the postseason no matter how it felt,” he said. “There was a risk — a foul ball off my foot. … The reward was worth the risk.”
New York general manager Brian Cashman thinks the injuries were anomalies.
“There’s risk always when you make those type of commitments, but we signed the player because of the projected reward,” Cashman said. “He’s a unique talent.”
Ellsbury’s arrival was linked to the slow negotiations with All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, who left for a $240 million, 10-year deal with Seattle.
“We have to start moving now,” Cashman remembered telling his bosses. “And to move early, you have to step up and separate yourself from the pack.”
Ellsbury’s deal calls for salaries of $21,142,857.15 per season and includes a $21 million team option for 2021 with a $5 million buyout. Ellsbury gets a full no-trade provision and the right to purchase six Legends Suite tickets per year.
“I’ve seen him get base hits. I’ve seen him hit home runs. I’ve seen him steal second. I’ve seen him steal third,” Girardi said. “And I even had the pleasure of watching him steal home off of Andy Pettitte when I was standing right behind him and we were all screaming at Andy.
“I’ve seen him make great catches that changed the complexion of the scores between the Red Sox and Yankees. And that’s why I’m so excited to have him in our lineup on a daily basis, because there’s so many different ways that he can beat you, whether it’s with his power, his speed or his glove.”
After seven seasons with the Red Sox and two World Series titles, Ellsbury took out a full-page ad in Friday’s editions of The Boston Globe.
“To the fans of New England, teammates and the many friendships made. Thank you!” the ad stated.
He wouldn’t be surprised if he receives a hostile reception when he returns to Fenway Park next season.
“Fans like to boo. It’s just kind of fun to boo,” he said.
But he cherishes his time in Boston. He had dinner Thursday night with former Red Sox teammates Dustin Pedroia and David Ross.
“It was seven great years. The fans treated me great,” Ellsbury said. “The guys in the clubhouse, those are relationships that I’ll have for the rest of my life regardless of what uniform I’m in or the uniform they’re in.”
NOTES: Outfielder Vernon Wells wore 22 at the end of last season. With Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki, there appears no room for Wells on the roster unless there is a trade or injury.