Heading into his final season in pinstripes, Yankees’ captain Derek Jeter has had a spring training that he’d rather forget about. Prior to Wednesday’s game in which he went 1-for-2 with two runs scored and a walk, he has been 5-for-46, and the whispers of his skills corroding to the point of being serviceable began to circulate. While manager Joe Girardi, hitting coach Kevin Long and most sensible Yankees fans didn’t put much stock in Jeter’s early struggles, their patience and faith are now being rewarded as Jeter is finally rounding into regular season shape, as he’s had two hits in his last three at-bats. Jeter was never concerned about his spring performance, especially for a guy that missed most of last season after a fractured ankle during the 2012 postseason. Jeter’s rust finally being knocked off is a sign of good things as Tuesday’s opener for the Yankees is less than a week away. Jeter added:
That’s the goal — to get ready for Opening Day…Sometimes you have to use more of the spring than others to get ready, but I feel good where I am right now. We have a couple more games left and then we’ll start the year, so I’m happy with where I am.
Spoken like a true professional. Jeter played a day game after a night game for the first time yesterday, and felt no ill-effects from the test. Joe Girardi was particularly excited that Jeter made it through without issue, but Jeter himself wasn’t too impressed:
Maybe it was for him, but for me, it’s just like a regular spring…I’ve pretty much been on the schedule of a normal spring, so I never viewed it as being abnormal. If it was a situation where I had to rest more or not play as much as I normally would, it may have felt a little different.
Looking at the various injuries that afflicted Jeter last season–the ankle, quad, hamstring, and calf, none of them have given him any issue this spring, which the Yankees and their fan base can be ecstatic about. Girardi was more concerned about Jeter knocking off the aforementioned rust, and remaining healthy heading into the regular season, and really didn’t care about the stats he saw his shortstop posting:
The big thing for me is he’s healthy…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, 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 really hasn’t played in a year and a half.
Jeter has looked smooth playing defense this spring, not trying to force things as he did a season ago. He will get Thursday off as a regularly scheduled day off, and then he will head to Tampa for his final two spring training games of his illustrious career. Jeter was asked if he was going to take any souvenirs from his final exhibition contests, and he responded:
I’m just trying to enjoy my time and not looking forward to it being over…That’s the best way to put it. Spring training is spring training. The number one priority is still to get in shape for the year and for the season.
For the Yankees’ team captain, if the truth were to be known, anything short of a 28th World Series championship, the season, regardless of how celebrated his career will be throughout, will be a failure in his mind.