Well aware that the Yankees are in the market for a backup plan, Derek Jeter made it clear tonight that he still considers himself an everyday shortstop and expects to be in that familiar position on Opening Day.
“My job is to get ready to play,” Jeter said at the fund-raising gala for Joe Torre’s foundation. “That’s what my job has always been. I don’t make out lineup cards. All I can do is get ready in the offseason, come there (in spring training) and be ready to play. My job is to play short. It’s been my job since I came up, and it will continue to be my job. I understand the concerns because of everything that went down last year, so I understand that, but I’ll be ready to go.”
As you well know — and as he certainly knows — Jeter played only 17 games this year, sidelined over and over again by leg injuries connected to the broken ankle that forced him out of the 2012 playoffs. Despite the injury, and despite being 39 years old, Jeter was given a $12 million contract to return next season. Whether intentional or not, Jeter seemed to downplay the idea that he’s the one who pushed for the new deal. Asked about the contract, he was quickly to make it clear that his agent, Casey Close, did the negotiating.
“It was great,” he said. “What was it, a couple of conversations I think with Casey and Hal, and it was over and done with. I’m happy. I’m excited.”
But the Yankees have made little secret of their need to put a Plan B in place, and they’re reportedly close to a deal with free agent shortstop Brendan Ryan, a defensive specialist who could handle the position — at least one dimensionally — if Jeter’s not able.
“If. If. If,” Jeter said. “I can’t comment on, if. You guys know me. I like to play. I like to play every single day. The fact that some days are DH days, some days you have off, I understand that. .. My job is to be ready to play, and I’ll be ready.”
Jeter said he began offseason strengthening workouts a couple of weeks ago and has been happy with the early results. He said he’s “100 percent” expecting to be fully healthy by February.
“I started a little bit earlier this year,” he said. “I’ve had so much time off, so I started strengthening my legs at the beginning of November. … My ankle is good. It’s just strengthening everything else. I’ve done my tests on my ankle, and it’s good to go. Now it’s just strengthening the other body parts.”
Associated Press photo