There seems to be universal agreement about Derek Jeter’s current situation, and what it will be on Opening Day. It’s the six weeks in between that are a bit vague and murky.
“We just have to watch how he progresses as we go through,” Joe Girardi said. “Obviously there’s no rush to get him in games. It’s not like we don’t have a ton of time left. We’re just going to have to judge how he’s doing every day and how he’s progressing and then make a determination when he should start playing in games and if he’s ready Opening Day. Knowing Derek, I feel like he’ll be ready, but we’ll have to go through this to see.”
This morning, Jeter made it clear that he expects to be ready for the opener. He also made it clear that he won’t be ready to play when the exhibition schedule begins on Saturday. He believes he’ll be the same player he was last season, but he also knows he’ll turn 39 in June and will be playing with a plate in his left ankle. The Yankees always say they never bet against Jeter — he’s given them plenty of reasons to say that — and they’ve said all along that he’s expected to be ready for the Opening Day, but it became clear today just how uncertain the next month or two will be.
“I’m going to have to push myself,” Jeter said.
Girardi seemed to leave every option on the table. He said he doesn’t have a number of spring at-bats in mind, and he doesn’t know how often Jeter will be able to play the field. He only knows that Jeter’s not quite ready today, and he’s going to need some occasional rest during the season. The rest, basically, depends on Jeter’s progress. Girardi said it’s “absolutely” possible that Jeter will regularly Dh against lefties.
“I don’t really have a plan exactly how I’m going to play him,” Girardi said. “I’m going to go through spring training and then make an evaluation what we need to do. … I’ve found that when you have a plan, it changes because you have a need somewhere else or you have an injury somewhere else, but I believe with the way we’re constructed he can get his fair share of DH days against left-handers, and we’ll see how he responds every day.”
• Is it strange to not see Alex Rodriguez? “There’s 90 guys in there right now,” Mark Teixeira said. “Even if he was here I’m not sure I’d see him.”
• Girardi did say he expects Jeter to DH when he first starts playing spring games. That seems to indicate that the Yankees are willing to let him play even if he’s not quite ready defensively. Should open quite a bit of playing time for Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix (not to mention Gil Velazquez, Cito Culver, Addison Maruszak and Walter Ibarra).
• Is it realistic to think Jeter can still be mobile enough to play shortstop? “I have not been told it’s not,” Girardi said. “I have not been told this is a career-threatening injury as a defender. No one’s ever even mentioned that to me. We’re going to have to evaluate how he’s doing at the end of spring training and where he’s at, but I expect him to be the player he was last year. I do.”
• Teixeira said he slightly altered his offseason workout schedule so that he stopped doing his heavy lifting a little earlier. He did that in preparation for the World Baseball Classic, but he also thinks it might help him avoid his usual early season slump.
• Teixeira on his offensive approach: “There’s really no reason for me at this point in my career to try to start doing things differently. I’ve had such a successful career playing to my strengths. Now that being said, I want to be the best at what I do well, and that’s hitting home runs, driving in runs and playing Gold Glove defense. I know if I do those three things I’m going to help my team win because at the end of the day that’s why I’m here, I’m here to help my team win, not put up certain types of numbers.”
• Although David Adams said this morning that he’s only a week behind schedule, Girardi said he doesn’t expect to see Adams on the field for a “couple of weeks.” I took him to mean no batting practice and no fielding drills.
• Travis Hafner called Yankees Stadium “the best spot for me” based on his pull-heavy offensive approach, but that’s not why he signed. “I’ve only been to the playoffs once in the last 10 years,” Hafner said. “I know here we have a great chance and I’m very excited about that and looking forward to the opportunity. That was probably number one on the list, just having a great chance to win.”
• Hafner’s health? “I feel great, ready to go,” he said.
• I actually wasn’t able to watch much of the workout today. With Jeter’s press conference and some late-morning blog work, the bulk of the action was finished by the time most of the writers were able to get down to the field. I do know that some of the younger minor league guys were already throwing breaking balls to hitters.
• Over in Red Sox camp, Alfredo Aceves is still an odd guy.
• Girardi said he’ll address the team before tomorrow’s first full-squad workout. “The message is, let’s get better,” Girardi said. “I mean, that’s the bottom line. Let’s get prepared and let’s get better. That’s what we’re here for.”
• One last word from Teixeira: “One thing you learn hanging around the Yankees is don’t bet against Derek or Mo. These guys have been All-Star, Hall of Fame players for so long that even if they get banged up and both are coming off injury, you’re not going to bet against them.”
Associated Press photos