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First game out of the way for Yanks' prized newcomers

First game out of the way for Yanks' prized newcomers

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The opening inning of the Yankees' first Grapefruit League contest featured new leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury working a seven-pitch walk, then racing home when new catcher Brian McCann ripped a sharp single to center field.

That's a formula the Yankees could get used to. Three of the team's prized winter additions made their debuts in a 6-5 loss to the Pirates on Wednesday at McKechnie Field, as Ellsbury, McCann and Carlos Beltran continue to get acclimated to their new surroundings.

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"It's exciting, getting on base and having these type of hitters hit behind you," Ellsbury said. "That's one of the big reasons I signed over here, for the opportunity to hopefully compete each year in the postseason."

Ellsbury walked twice, legged out an infield single and scored two runs while playing center field. McCann caught four innings and finished the day 1-for-2, and Beltran fouled out, struck out and grounded out.

"These are proven players," manager Joe Girardi said. "You learn a little bit about their personalities when you see them, but I have a pretty good idea of what they can do. I saw Jacoby enough. I know exactly what he can do. It's good to see them and to have discussions with them as things are going on."

In Girardi's mind, the three additions should improve a lineup that produced 650 runs last season, the Yankees' lowest total since 1991. McCann was the first upgrade to arrive, as the veteran All-Star agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract in November.

McCann had plenty of notice that his days with the Braves were drawing to a close, but even so, he strapped on the shinguards on Wednesday and acknowledged feeling differently from how he typically would for the first game of the spring.

"It was awesome. I was a little nervous," McCann said. "I felt good. Any time you put another uniform and go out for the first time, you get those butterflies. To get that out of the way, to get that first step, was nice."

Ellsbury inked his seven-year, $153 million deal shortly after McCann tried on his pinstripes during a Yankee Stadium news conference, and the former Red Sox sparkplug cheered when the Yankees finished their three-year, $45 million pact with Beltran.

"Each time we signed a new guy, I got a lot of phone calls," Ellsbury said. "It was important for me to sign early, but to see what they did after I signed made it that much more enjoyable in the offseason, knowing what kind of talent we're putting out on that field."

With substitutions beginning in the fifth inning on Wednesday, Beltran, Ellsbury and McCann completed their conditioning together, chugging through the outfield grass while the game continued.

Beyond the handful of innings they played on an overcast afternoon, the newest Yankees should be able to forge a bond just by spending time in the same clubhouses across the state of Florida.

"I'm new here, but there's a lot of new faces, a lot of new guys," Beltran said. "But they're guys who have been in the league for a long time. I know them. We just have to get used to playing together."

Beltran looks at Spring Training as a chance to work on his timing, so feel free to ignore Wednesday's results. He himself won't pay any real attention to his statistics until the season begins.

"I just want to feel solid at the plate, like my lower body is working," he said. "In Spring Training, you want to do well and want to get good results, but at the same time, I try not to focus on that. I try to focus on the way I feel at the plate."

Playing his first contest since the clinching game of last year's World Series, Ellsbury said it was "exciting" to get back to facing pitching at game speed following a few sun-splashed afternoons of batting practice in Tampa.

He showed patience in his first two at-bats, facing Bucs hurlers Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez, then reached on an infield single off Bryan Morris in the fifth inning.

"For the most part, I like to see as many pitches as I can in Spring Training," Ellsbury said. "At the same time, I still want to be aggressive in the zone, so there's a fine line. I think it worked out great."

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.

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