TAMPA, Fla. -- If you're drawing up the Yankees' depth chart right now, Kelly Johnson is the safest bet to be the starting third baseman. He's also the backup second baseman, the backup first baseman, and you may also see him in left field.
Suffice it to say, Johnson is going to be a busy man over the next six weeks. He said that he brought three different gloves to Spring Training and plans to be prepared for whatever manager Joe Girardi throws his way.
"It's whatever they need," Johnson said. "The positions I've played so far -- between the outfield, third, second and first -- are places I have experience at. I'm open and willing and preparing to play all of those."
When Johnson first started discussing a contract with the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez's suspension appeal was not final. Even so, Johnson assumed that third base would be an area where the Yankees were going to need his help.
"Had [Rodriguez] been here right now on Day 1, he's obviously going to be the starter and going to play there, but there's also going to be times when he would have DH'ed," Johnson said. "So in my head, if that's what I'm thinking about, I'm thinking I'm still going to get some games there and I still need to get my work in."
Johnson has played just 16 big league games at third base, all last season with the Rays, but he is familiar with the left side of the infield after being drafted as a shortstop. Johnson plans to continue working with infield coach Mick Kelleher to get more comfortable at the hot corner between now and Opening Day.
"I feel really good," Johnson said. "It's Spring Training, so I'm coming and getting the work in for April 1. I like that side of the field. I was a shortstop coming up my whole life, and have since moved to the other side to second, so the angle I'm familiar with and that side of the field I'm familiar with."
Ellsbury getting used to donning pinstripes
TAMPA, Fla. -- Jacoby Ellsbury dropped his bags off on Tuesday afternoon and said that he has been told to get ready for a season of hitting leadoff and playing center field. No problem: Those are both familiar assignments by this point in his career.
What will be an adjustment, of course, is looking in the mirror before games and seeing those Yankees pinstripes. Ellsbury said that his Red Sox days ended the moment he signed his seven-year, $153 million contract, and he is ready to begin this new chapter.
"I'm looking forward to it," Ellsbury said. "I did a shoot for Nike the other day; they sent down the official jersey and pants. It was the first time putting all that on a couple days ago, and it felt good.
"Obviously, it looks a little different, but that's something I was looking forward to -- something I was excited about. This team has a great chance to win and play deep into October."
Ellsbury, 30, said that he is 100 percent healed from the foot and hand injuries that lingered throughout Boston's run to the World Series title last season. He said that a full offseason of strength training will have him "ready to go Day 1 here" as part of the re-tooled Yankees roster.
"They've definitely added some great pieces; they've had great pieces here," Ellsbury said. "Just the combination of guys coming back, the guys they've brought in, the sky's the limit. There's a lot of talent here. We haven't even started camp yet, but I'm just excited to go out there."
The Yankees' outfield projects to have Ellsbury in center field, Brett Gardner in left field and Carlos Beltran in right. Ellsbury said that he was excited to share an outfield with Gardner in particular.
"When you're looking in the outfield, it just looks like there's nowhere you can hit it," Ellsbury said. "You've got to hit it out. It just puts a lot of pressure on the offense to really drive the ball. Anything that's hanging in the air, I feel like we're going to track down."
Ellsbury said that he has kept in touch with some of his old Boston teammates, and recently saw Dustin Pedroia and Cody Ross. They told Ellsbury that they were sorry to see him go, but happy for his new beginning with the Yankees.
It remains to be seen how the rest of Boston will react when Ellsbury next sets foot in Fenway Park. He won't have to wait long: New York's first road series against the Red Sox is scheduled for April 22-24.
"I definitely gave them everything that I had in that organization," Ellsbury said. "I played as hard as I could, tried to do everything the right way. I left it all on the field for them. Whatever reception I get, I guess it's yet to be seen, but I'm not going to think about it too much, just because it's going to be out of my hands."
Ryan looks forward to serving as Jeter's understudy
TAMPA, Fla. -- Brendan Ryan understands that there will be some disappointed customers in the building when it is his name, and not Derek Jeter's, that appears on the lineup card as the Yankees' shortstop for any given game.
But after last year, the Yanks know all too well that Jeter can't do it alone. Ryan is looking forward to sharing the position, knowing that it will be a memorable experience to serve as the understudy for the captain's final Major League season.
"Where else would I rather be?" Ryan said. "This is a special opportunity, and whether it's a few days a week, or a few days a month, I might as well embrace it. It's a special opportunity to play with a special guy in his last season."
Ryan played 17 games with the Yankees last September, but he and Jeter have never been on the active roster at the same time. The Yankees ended Jeter's season by placing him on the disabled list last Sept. 11, the same day that Ryan arrived after being traded by the Mariners.
"I've always been a big, big fan of Jeter's -- and that was well before I knew anything about him personally," Ryan said. "I loved the way he played the game, the way he moved, the way he took ground balls. I wanted to look like that, going back to high school.
"It's kind of surreal now to be here with him, putting on the same uniform. It's something I think we're all looking forward to. We'll be sad in the end, but hopefully we won't be sad when we're pouring champagne at the end of the year."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that it would be "ideal" if Jeter can play shortstop, since they have big outfield bats who would be better options at designated hitter. General manager Brian Cashman said that using Ryan as a late-inning defensive replacement for Jeter has not been discussed.
"Obviously he's here as the backup. That's it," Cashman said. "He'll be utilized in any way that our manager feels will help, whether it's spelling a day or coming off the bench. Whatever is necessary. But it's not something we've discussed in any way."
There will undoubtedly be days off, and for those fans who show up at ballparks this season to witness Jeter's farewell tour and get nine innings of Ryan instead, Ryan said that he can sympathize. An avid Los Angeles Clippers fan, the shortstop said that he attended three games this season while point guard Chris Paul was injured.
"It's still your team, but the heart and soul is not out there," Ryan said. "I apologize to those fans who come when he's not playing."
• The Red Sox, Rays, Orioles or Blue Jays could all have sneak peeks at Masahiro Tanaka this spring. The Yankees have not discussed keeping Tanaka away from their American League East rivals during Spring Training, according to Girardi.
"I think it's important that he pitches in Major League games," Girardi said. "You'll see all of our starters pitch in simulated games, because we think it's an easier way sometimes to build them up. I don't have a schedule drawn up, but that is not something we've talked about."
• One name to remember in the Yankees' infield mix is Yangervis Solarte, who could challenge for a roster spot this spring. A switch-hitting 26-year-old with some pop, Solarte signed with the Yankees after playing the last two seasons for the Rangers' Triple-A club.
"He's going to get a good look," Girardi said. "He's got some versatility. We're looking for versatility because of our infield situation, and he has that."