Derek Jeter just played his final spring training road game, and no, he did not take a souvenir. Jeter left Florida Auto Exchange Stadium with a single and a walk and that’s it.
“I’ve just tried to not look forward to everything being over,” he said. “If you call that soaking it in in spring training, I guess (that’s happened). I’m just trying to enjoy my time and not looking forward to it being over. That’s the best way to put it.”
With hits in back-to-back games — a night game followed by a day game, which seems at least a little bit significant — Jeter is now hitting .143, which seems nearly Jeter-like compared to the .114 batting average he was sporting just three days ago. Jeter has not had a good spring, but he said he’s had a productive spring.
“This year may have taken a little bit longer,” he said. “But first you want to make sure you’re seeing the ball. Then it’s, you want to make sure you’re swinging at good pitches. Then it’s contact. Driving balls in the air is usually the last thing that comes. It’s usually been like that every spring. This year, maybe it’s taken a little bit longer than other ones, but I think that’s understandable considering I haven’t played in quite some time.”
Last night, Jon Heyman quoted two scouts saying Jeter has looked slower this spring, which shouldn’t come as much surprise considering age and injuries. I talked to one scout who’s seen a lot of the Yankees games this spring, and he felt that in the field Jeter has shown the same limited range he’s had in recent years without a significant change. The same scout noted that Jeter positions himself well enough to help make up for it.
“I thought he was doing well considering his age and the serious injury he had,” the scout said. “Bucky Dent was the master at defensive positioning, and Jeter obviously could have the same tool in his bag.”
Jeter is scheduled to be off on Thursday before playing the final two spring home games on Friday and Saturday. Opening Day is five days away, and there’s little indication that Jeter will not be playing shortstop and batting second.
“The big thing for me is, he’s healthy,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s responding day after day, coming back, playing four out of five days. I think he’s starting to swing the bat a little bit better. He’s starting to get the ball in the air, line drives. I don’t worry too much about spring training for veteran guys, especially a guy who’s missed a (lot of time), really (hasn’t) played in a year and a half. I don’t worry about it. We’ve talked about his timing. He feels it’s better and better, and I think it will continue to improve, and he’ll be fine.”
· Preston Claiborne came into camp as one of a handful of returning relievers who actually got significant big league time last season. I’m not sure he was an overwhelming favorite to break camp with the Yankees, but he certainly had a good chance. Claiborne’s spring, though, has been pretty bad, capped by today debacle of a fifth inning in which he got no outs and was charged with six runs. “The stuff has not been the same for whatever reason,” Girardi said. “When we got him up last year he had been on a roll and he was throwing the ball very well. He has not been able to do that this spring, and it’s something that we’ve looked at.”
· Dellin Betances on the other hand pitched another scoreless inning that included another strikeout. “He’s thrown the ball well, there’s no doubt about it,” Girardi said.
· Final bullpen and bench decisions will come on Friday at the latest, and Girardi said they could come as early as Thursday night. “These guys do have to pack for a road trip on Saturday,” Girardi said. “Probably help them if we could make it by Friday.”
· Watching Jacoby Ellsbury play at the minor league complex in Tampa, Brian Cashman confirmed that Brendan Ryan will in fact open the season on the disabled list. Certainly comes as no surprise.
· Cashman also said that teams have been calling to ask about the availability of both Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy. Those two have been optioned to Triple-A, leaving Francisco Cervelli to be the big league backup. “If something made sense, we’d consider it,” Cashman told Wally Matthews. “But right now, we’re happy with what we’ve got.”
· Speaking of that minor league game, Ellsbury played five innings in center field and went 1-for-4 with a walk. If he plays tomorrow, it will be in another minor league game. The Yankees continue to say that they’re confident he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
· Dave Robertson also got some work in at the minor league complex. In big league camp, Robertson’s allowed one hit through six scoreless innings. In minor league camp today, two-thirds of an inning, two hits and one run. He did strike out two guys today.
· Box score notes: Making his first start of the spring, Chris Leroux allowed his first runs. He gave up two runs on five hits — and he was hit by two comebackers — in three innings. The Yankees had an early lead, but it crumbled in the fifth inning and they lost 10-6. … Matt Daley retired the only hitter he faced, and Betances, Yoshinori Tateyama, Dan Burawa and Jim Miller each pitched a scoreless inning (Miller’s came while cleaning up the mess in the fifth). Two of the runs in that fifth inning were charged to Fred Lewis, who let three batters reach base in two-thirds of an inning. … Carlos Beltran had a two-hit game and has his spring average up to .292. Dean Anna also had another hit, this one a double, to continue making his case for a roster spot (of course, Yangervis Solarte also had another hit). Kelly Johnson drove in two runs. … Hasn’t gotten nearly the same attention as Solarte, but Adonis Garcia has had a monster spring. He hit his third double today, and he’s batting .419.
· Jeter gets the final word: “I like the guys that we have. I’ve said that. We have a lot of talent here. We’ve got to stay healthy. It seems like every team says the same thing. That applies to us as well. We need to stay healthy because there are always going to be injuries, but you’ve got to try to limit those injuries. But yeah, I think we have a lot of talent here, a lot of optimism. The bottom line is, you have to perform on the field, but I like the guys that we have.”
Associated Press photos