Standing behind home plate with members of the Boys and Girls Club, Derek Jeter was given a key to the city of Tampa yesterday. Literally seconds later, his final spring training game was rained out. Kind of an odd way to break camp for the last time.
“I just tried to not look forward to the end of (spring training),” Jeter said. “Most people look forward to the end of spring about two weeks into it, but I just tried to take it day in and day out. That’s what I’ll remember.”
Truth be told, Jeter’s final spring training really wasn’t all that memorable. He hit just .137 with only one extra-base hit, but he played in 18 games with 51 at-bats. Those are the numbers that seemed to mean the most. He was healthy. He ran without any problems. He did nothing to suggest he can’t be the Yankees shortstop this season.
“I think that his average that will be something that will be talked about,” Joe Girardi said. “But for me, I think it was seeing him come out and play healthy, going back to back, being physically able to do it, not having to force his running. It was hard to watch last year. As much as he said he was ready to go, he really wasn’t, so I’m happy with where he’s at. I don’t make too much of spring training numbers, because I’ve been in both sides of that where I had a good spring and couldn’t get a hit in the month of April, and had a bad spring and got a lot of hits in the month of April. So I don’t make too much of that. As long as he feels good and feels like his timing’s there, that’s the most important thing.”
Jeter says he feels good, and he points to a few hits late in spring as evidence that his timing was getting better at just the right time. I’m not sure anyone knows what to expect over the course of 162 games — how well can he hit, will experience and positioning make him a viable defensive player, can he stay healthy all the way through — but we know that Jeter is going to play. His ankle has healed, his legs are strong, and the shortstop position is his for one last season.
“It’s odd to think that I won’t be back,” Jeter said. “I’ve been coming here (to Steinbrenner Field) since ’96. The first year it opened was my first year (on the Opening Day roster). It will be a little different. It will probably be a little more different next year when spring training starts. Right now, I’m just looking forward to getting to Houston. … I feel good. That was the most important thing. Spring training is a progression, both physically and being game-ready. I feel I’m where I want to be right now.”