Yankee Stadium hasn’t exactly been filled to the brim during the first two home series of the season, but it’s safe to say that a good portion of the fans who are making their way to River Ave. in the Bronx have been coming to see Derek Jeter.
Once Jeter made his preseason announcement that this season will be his last, it ensured that any chance to see him live would be a memorable experience. Inevitably, though, Jeter will have to sit out for at least a handful of games this year, and Saturday marks the first time that his named wasn’t penciled into the lineup for a home game.
“First of all, it’s April (12th). As I’ve said, I have to manage him with the focus of winning games and keeping him healthy – not it being a farewell tour. I wasn’t hired to put on a farewell tour,” Joe Girardi said. “This game is obviously important to us, but so is tomorrow and the next day and next month. I’m sorry for people who came to see him, but I have to be smart about it.”
It makes sense. Jeter is coming off of an injury-laden season in which he was only able to play in 17 games, and as he nears his 40th birthday, it would be foolish to expect him to play every single day. He’s played in seven straight games coming into today, and with this being a day game after a night game, it’s a logical time to give him a rest.
Fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the Captain will have to just hope he enters the game as a pinch-hitter at some point.
“When you start running guys out there too much, you risk injury,” Girardi said. “I’m sure people would be a little more upset if he was out for two weeks or month, or something like that. I understand fans want to see him play, and I get that. I want to see him play. I’d love to run him out there 162 times, but I’ve got to do what’s best for him and our team. When you have day games after night games, or you walk into a hotel room at 6 o’clock in the morning, you’ve got to be smart about it.”
· Everything that we heard this morning about how Mark Teixeira is progressing was very positive. I spotted him in the clubhouse in uniform with his batting gloves, and it looked like he was heading to do some hitting. That’s obviously a good sign. Girardi gave the impression that he should be ready to jump back into the lineup as soon as his DL stint is up next weekend, and Teixeira told ESPN’s Andrew Marchand that he expects to play next Sunday. “I’d be surprised if he wasn’t back after the 15, 16 days or whatever,” Girardi said. “He’s moving along well. He’s going to hit more in the cage today.”
· Girardi was asked if he’s sensed any frustration from Teixeira about getting injured so quickly after working so hard to get back from his wrist surgery. “I know it’s worn on him,” he said. “I know he’s frustrated. He wants to be out there for his team and loves to play the game. Hopefully, this is just a little blip. Last year was kind of a strange injury that he had. He got hurt at the (World Baseball Classic) swinging, and it was a pretty significant injury. But he seemed to respond pretty well coming back from that, he just has a mild (hamstring) strain. Hopefully, we’ll get through it and that will be it.”
· Girardi was also asked about how he thinks Kelly Johnson has done while filling in for Teixeira at first base. “He’s done a really, really good job,” he said. “And that’s not an easy position. I think sometimes people think it’s an easy position, but there’s a lot of things to know when you start talking about bunt plays, cuts and relays, having to get off the base when you’re holding a guy on – so he’s done a really good job.”
· With Tex out, Girardi has been playing around with the lineup more than you would expect this early in the year. He seems to like Jacoby Ellsbury in the three-hole, and he’s probably been the Yankees biggest offensive weapon so far. With Jeter out today, Brian Roberts moves up into the two-hole. “You do feel that you’re going to have a fixed batting order, but when you lose someone in the middle, a lot of times it changes things,” Girardi said. “You maybe move it around a little bit more. We’re trying to get to more of a set batting order. We would like to do that. But with the age that we have and having to give guys a day off, sometimes you have to change it a little bit.”
· While the offense still seems to be finding its way, it’s very hard not to be encouraged by what this Yankees pitching staff has done. The starting rotation has the potential to be the most dynamic that Girardi has had during his time as manager — especially when you consider the upside of No. 4 starter Masahiro Tanaka and No. 5 Michael Pineda — and the bullpen seems to have guys who can be effective in certain roles once closer David Robertson returns. There are a lot of question marks, but it’s also a very compelling group. “It’s something where you don’t have five guys coming in who you know exactly what they did last year. You don’t,” Girardi said. “I think there was curiosity on how CC would bounce back, and I think he’s thrown the ball pretty well. You get a young man that comes over from Japan that’s never pitched in our country, and everyone is wondering how he’s going to adapt to (pitching) every fifth day, and the balls a little different, and the country is different. He seems, so far, to do a pretty good job. And then there were the questions about Pineda, and where’s he really at? He finished up pretty well last year throwing in some minor league rehab games and we were pretty pleased, but I still think there was the question: Where is he at? So far, he’s in a pretty good place. Do we have to be somewhat careful with him? Yes. And I have to manage that.”
· Here’s more on what’s been impressive about Pineda: “How he competes,” Girardi said. “How quickly he works. Usually, if a guy is not feeling well, you’ll see them slow down a little bit. That was the one thing that I noticed early in spring training that gave me the clue that he was feeling pretty good – his bullpens were quick. He didn’t waste any time. But I like the way that he competes, and how he has a high expectation of himself.”
· Girardi was asked if this year has been more challenging than usual for him because of losing Tex and Robertson, plus dealing with an aging roster. But let’s be honest, it would be hard to top last season. “I seem to have a little bit more of a set lineup this year than I did last year,” he said. “Last year was somewhat challenging because there were people walking through the door all of the time. (I was) trying to learn so many new players throughout the whole year, as opposed to maybe at the beginning of this year. But there’s some age on this team that I definitely have to manage, and it’s just not in one particular group.”
· There wasn’t as much talk about Robertson as there was about Teixeira this morning, but I did see D-Rob in uniform with his glove in hand. Looked like he was going to throw, and Girardi also seems to think he’ll be ready shortly after his DL time is up. “It should be short-lived, and we should get him back pretty soon,” he said.
Associated Press photos