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5/2/2014 12:23 A.M. ET

Ellsbury returns, hits first homer as Yankee

NEW YORK -- Three days off seem to have done the trick for Jacoby Ellsbury, who returned to the Yankees' lineup on Thursday after a brief layoff to rest a sore left hand. He then hit a leadoff homer in the first -- his first home run as a Yankee.

Ellsbury missed just one game during the mini-break, thanks to a team off-day on Monday and a rain postponement on Wednesday. He launched his first Bombers blast to right field off Mariners rookie Roenis Elias, producing half of the Yanks' production in a 4-2 loss.

"It was nice getting that first one. Too bad it couldn't come in a win, but it was definitely nice to get that first one out of the way," Ellsbury said.

The homer was Ellsbury's 11th career leadoff home run and his first since last Sept. 29, against the Orioles in Baltimore. It was also the Yanks' first leadoff homer since Derek Jeter hit one on Aug. 21, 2012, against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

"He's been swinging the bat well," Jeter said. "You don't necessarily need him to hit home runs to help us win, but I'm sure it feels good for him to get his first one. Sometimes the first one is the hardest one to get. He's been doing pretty much everything good for us."

The ball was caught by a fan and delivered to Ellsbury, who is batting .309 with eight doubles, two triples and 12 RBIs in 26 games. He said that he was not worried about the zero that had been sitting in his home run column.

"I think for me, not really, because no one is expecting me to hit 30 or 40 homers. I'm a leadoff hitter," Ellsbury said. "It's nice to get that first one out of the way, but it wasn't like I was thinking about it -- like, hey, I need to hit a home run right here, or I need to get a home run today.

"I feel like when I do hit them, I typically hit them in bunches. That's kind of the way it's been throughout my career."

Yankees expect to handle Pineda's absence

NEW YORK -- Michael Pineda is expected to be out of action for approximately three to four weeks with an upper back injury, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi expects that the pitching staff will be able to handle his absence.

"We'll get Michael back; things will get a little bit back to normal when we get him back," Girardi said. "The other guys are more than capable. Just do what you're supposed to on your turn."

Pineda was diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain of the Teres Major muscle behind his right shoulder after feeling discomfort in a simulated game this week in Tampa, Fla. Pineda has been instructed to rest for 10 days, and he will be replaced by David Phelps in the rotation.

"He's down. He's frustrated," Girardi said. "The good part of it is, if you're going to have an injury as a pitcher, a lot of times it's your elbow or your shoulder. It's really neither, in a sense, so this will heal and he'll get back right out there."

Pineda had been preparing to serve as the Yankees' scheduled starter for their series opener on Monday against the Angels in Anaheim, when his 10-game suspension was set to expire.

Instead, that start will go to Phelps, who threw an 85-pitch indoor simulated game at Yankee Stadium after Wednesday's contest was postponed by rain. Phelps opened this year in the bullpen, but he has gone 7-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 23 starts over the last two seasons.

"I thought [Phelps] did a pretty good job when he's filled in as a starter, and that's what I expect him to do," Girardi said.

The Yankees will continue playing with a 24-man roster until Monday, when they will place Pineda on the 15-day disabled list.

Girardi said that one positive of Pineda's layoff is that it will keep his innings under control. While the Yankees have not set a cap on Pineda's innings, they were planning to manage his workload carefully in his first full season back from right labrum surgery.

"It's not the way we wanted to do it, but it's another way you could look at it," Girardi said.

Bombers bits

• Infielder Brendan Ryan (cervical spine nerve injury) is getting closer to being ready for big league duty. Ryan's Minor League rehabilitation assignment will continue on Friday with Double-A Trenton as it hosts Richmond at 7:05 p.m. ET. Ryan is expected to need about 10 more at-bats before being activated.

• Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Wolff was honored by the Guinness Book of World Records in a pregame ceremony Thursday for having the "Longest Career as a Broadcaster."

The 93-year-old Wolff, who is currently working for News 12 Long Island, called Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, and he also called the 1958 NFL championship game between the Giants and Colts, often referred to as the "Greatest Game Ever Played."

• On this date in 1920, Babe Ruth hit his first home run as a Yankee in a 6-0 win over the Red Sox, off future teammate Herb Pennock. On this date in 1951, Mickey Mantle hit his first career home run off Randy Gumpert of the White Sox in an 8-3 win.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.