When the Yankees went to stretch in right field this morning, Derek Jeter took his place next to Mark Teixeira. He jogged for a while. He shuffled his feet. He played catch with Eduardo Nunez, fielded ground balls with Dean Anna, and hit line drives into center field. It was pretty boring, really, except for the context.
A year ago at this time, Jeter’s legs were weak. He couldn’t do conditioning drills with his teammates, and he was foolishly pushing himself to be ready for Opening Day.
“I’m always going to tell you I’m fine,” Jeter said. “This year, I mean it.”
Jeter actually lost some weight this offseason. He spent most of his career at 199 pounds — said he tried to get to 200 but always seemed to be a pound short — but this winter he cut down to around 193, 194. He changed his diet a little bit, but mostly he focused on conditioning.
“On purpose,” Jeter said. “I did a lot of conditioning, a lot of running. I wanted to be a little lighter, take some pressure off my legs and move around a little bit better.”
It was only one workout — and a fairly light one — but Jeter seemed to be moving pretty well today. Certainly better than he was a year ago. One workout isn’t nearly enough to learn anything about Jeter’s defensive range or offensive production, but it might have told us a little bit about his improved healthy.
“I would say last year at times, just going through what you might consider everyday activity and jogs, running the bases, you would notice (the ankle bothering him),” Joe Girardi said. “Today it looked like he never got hurt. Just his jogging and watching him doing the exercises and stretching today, the running that they do, his running looked normal to me.”
Jeter said there’s “no comparison whatsoever” between how he felt today and how he felt a year ago. This year he’s healthy. Last year he was convincing people he was healthy.
“It’s not normal for me to necessarily peek at him when he was running his sprints and stretching,” Girardi said. “But I am going to be aware of that, and pay attention to it. Not because he’s retiring, but because of what he’s coming off.”
· Young catcher Pete O’Brien wasn’t the only one impressed by Michael Pineda’s bullpen this morning. “How the ball is coming out of his hand is the biggest thing for me,” Girardi said. “Does he look like he’s putting too much effort to let the ball go, or is it coming out easy? That’s what I’ve seen. It’s coming out easy. I don’t see him overthrowing. And the stuff being sharp, hitting his spots with some sink and some run to it. His slider looks good. His changeup looks good. His mechanics to me look much more polished than they were a couple of years ago. He’s had a lot of time to work on it and to think about it. He’s much more consistent in his delivery.”
· Pineda is not yet facing hitters like Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno did today, but Girardi said that’s not really because of health concerns. “It’s just some guys are a little bit ahead of others for various reasons,” Girardi said. “Maybe they started a little bit earlier here with Larry is usually the main reason. We might have a little caution, (but) he’s healthy. Pineda looks good to me.”
· Also, there’s this to consider about the guys facing hitters already: “It could be also too, as you look into it, who might be pitching in the first few games,” Girardi said. Of course, he didn’t go into detail, but it certainly sounds like either Nuno or Warren could start the spring opener (or one of those early games at the very least).
· I only covered the very end of Hideki Matsui’s time with the Yankees, but it’s still kind of cool to see him here as a guest instructor if only because of all the great things I’ve heard players, coaches and other writers say about him. “We had meetings early, so I didn’t have a chance to talk to him as much as I’d like,” Jeter said. “It seems like every year there’s more and more ex-teammates that are turning in to coaches, or honorary guest special instructors.”
· Girardi said there are no real restrictions on what Jeter can do this spring: “I don’t know if he’ll play the first game or two, but beyond that we don’t really have a lot of restrictions on him right now,” Girardi said. “I think we want to make sure he gets enough days of baserunning in to make sure he’s ready to go.”
· Trying to think of first impressions from watching today’s workouts, but there’s really not a single key thing that stands out. I did think Jeter was moving pretty well. Eduardo Nunez was driving the ball in batting practice. Brian McCann already seems popular with almost everyone. I heard both Nuno and Warren looked good in their BP session this morning. Nothing overly significant. Just a pretty standard first day.
· Official fan attendance for today’s workout: 1,338. The parking lot was full.
· Final word goes to Jeter: “I always enjoy coming here. It gets monotonous working out over at the minor-league complex each and every day before you get over here with your teammates. It’s always exciting when you get over here. I looked forward to it because I missed a lot of it last year; it was a rough spring. I was here, then I was in the training room, I didn’t start off with the team. This year, it fels good to just be on a normal schedule.”
Associated Press photos