For just the second time this season, Joe Girardi was able to pencil Derek Jeter’s name into the lineup, which surely has to be a good feeling for the Yankee manager at a time when his team’s offensive woes have been difficult to ignore. But having been down this road once before with Jeter less than three weeks ago, Girardi isn’t taking anything for granted.
“It changes our lineup; there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “And just his presence is important to this club. It’s been important for such a long time. My hope is that I get to do it today and I get to do it again on Tuesday, because we weren’t so lucky the last time.”
Presumably, Jeter’s quad strain is behind him. Jeter has repeatedly said that he feels great, and he reiterated that in a short session with the media this morning. You can sense his desperation to contribute after being forced to watch the Yankees struggle for the past few weeks, but you can’t help but wonder if he can play a full speed with no regard for reinjury.
“It’s kind of hard to play if you’re concerned about something,” Jeter said. “I know we’ve been scuffling to score runs, so I’m hoping I can help us.”
• After DHing in his only game in pinstripes this season on July 11, Jeter will make his season-debut at shortstop today. Some have speculated that we’ll see Jeter DHing quite a bit, but Girardi sounds like he still views him as the team’s everyday shortstop as they prepare to embark on a West Coast trip. “We need him to play shortstop because we’re going to National League cities and there will be no DH after this for the next week,” he said. “We need him to play shortstop.”
• Because the Yankees have two days off coming up this week, Girardi sounded as if he expects Jeter to play in most games on the upcoming road trip. “I think it will help us, yes I do,” he said. “He’ll play today, and then he gets a day off tomorrow. He’ll play two days, and then he gets (another) day off. Then we play a stretch of six, and maybe you DH him one of those days in Chicago. It should allow us to play him a lot more.”
• One thing that the Yankees haven’t done well recently (besides scoring runs) has been stringing wins together. Of course, no player in the game has a better winning pedigree than Jeter. “Derek has been a winner his whole career,” Girardi said. “He understands what it’s like to play in these type of games down the stretch. He’s been so productive over his career as a guy at the top of the order that scores a lot of runs and drives in a lot of runs, and just does things the right way. I think that’s why he’s so important to us.”
• While Jeter dismissed any notion that he would have to be careful when it comes to running at 100 percent, Girardi said that he has — and will continue to — stress to Jeter that he should take it easy when he can. “The last time I checked, they don’t give me a bungee cord that I can attach to him while he’s hitting, so the only thing I can do is just continue to preach it to him,” Girardi said. “I’ve told him once, and I’ll tell him, again before the game starts today that, ‘I know it’s not in your DNA, but you’re going to have to find a way to run under control when it calls for it. If there’s a situation where you have to run hard, you have to run hard. But we have to protect your leg and your body for a few days and get through this.’ ”
• Phil Hughes will get the start today, and Girardi was asked about his keys to success while pitching in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. “Command of his fastball is extremely important,” he said. “Being able to pitch down in the zone is extremely important, and mixing his other pitches in.”
• Hughes’ name has come up as someone that the Yankees could shop around in order to acquire another bat, and while nothing seems imminent, Girardi was asked how the right-hander has handled the rumors. “I think he’s handled it extremely well,” he said. “He’s worked hard, he goes about his business, he comes in and is prepared everyday to do what he needs to do. So I think he’s handled it really well. I know a lot of times people can get a little nervous around the trade deadline, but I have not seen that from him.”
• Jayson Nix was in the clubhouse today, and said that he will be activated for Tuesday’s game in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. “I’ve felt good for awhile,” Nix said. “I just started running a little less than a week ago. From the first day I started running, I felt good.”
• David Phelps was also in the clubhouse, but he will not be rejoining the club in the next few days. He’s scheduled to make another rehab start with Double-A Trenton on Tuesday.
• While Girardi said that we won’t see Curtis Granderson this week in LA, he hinted that he could possibly be back with the Yankees for the weekend series in San Diego. “We are pleased with the progress that he’s making,” Girardi said. “I don’t think that you’ll see Granderson, obviously, in LA, but we’ll see after that.”
• I wanted to post a link from Joel Sherman of the Post, who reported this morning that A-Rod could be facing his suspension sometime this week.
• I’ll have more on Hideki Matsui in a story that I’ll post later on, but he signed a minor league deal with the Yankees during a press conference this morning and will officially retire as a Yankee shortly before first pitch. This place is filled with Matsui jersey and Japanese media. “Not only was he a middle of the order hitter that had great production, he was a staple in the clubhouse,” Girardi said. “He was adored by his teammates, a leader – you think about what he went through to play every day with his knees. He was tough, and go back to Game 6 (of the 2009 World Series) and how important that game was to us. You’re going to have a hard time finding a player that was more liked in our clubhouse than Hideki Matsui over the years.”
Associated Press photos