Derek Jeter played on a bad ankle in 2012, and he spent all of 2013 just trying to get strong and healthy. Forgive him if today felt like a long time coming.
“I feel like I haven’t played a game in a couple of years,” Jeter said. “That’s what it felt like, even though I played a couple last year. I think just getting out there (felt good). I don’t know if there’s one thing in particular, but just getting into a game, feeling good, that’s what I was most excited about.”
Yes, he went 0-for-2. And no, he didn’t make a single play in the field (except applying the tag on a caught stealing). The important thing is that Jeter played five innings with no problem, and hitting two ground balls — one a double play, one a bang-bang play at first base — forced him to run pretty hard down the line.
Last year he never looked comfortable running to first base. Today he looked perfectly normal.
“I’ve done it already,” Jeter said. “I’ve run a lot. You guys may have not seen it, but I’ve run a lot. It’s always good to do stuff in game action. I wasn’t out there for such a long time, so it’s good to get back in game action. But I’m not concerned about running. That doesn’t cross my mind.”
Early in spring training, Jeter doesn’t often swing during live batting practice, so today was the first time he’d actually swung at a real pitch. As the spring progresses, he’ll eventually have to dive for the first time, range from side-to-side, and make his jump throw from the hole. Spring training is a long process, and Jeter is just getting started. But as far as first steps go, this one looked much different than in recent years; different because it actually looked normal.
Joe Girardi said he expects Jeter to play again on Saturday, and probably every other day for a while unless Jeter says he wants to play back-to-back right away.
“Everyone always says spring training is too long,” Jeter said. “But if you miss a whole spring training, then you realize why it is so long. You need to play games. You need different situations to happen. I haven’t played too many games in the past year and a half, so I’m looking forward to playing more and more games. You can work out all you want in the offseason, but until you start getting in the flow of the game, you really can’t prepare for that. … Right now I’m not where I want to be, but that’s why we have 30-something games in spring training.”
Associated Press photo