With every step came agony.
Derek Jeter couldn't run the bases, couldn't jog off the field, couldn't shift his position at shortstop without sharing his pain with a sellout crowd Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. So, for the first time in 155 career playoff appearances, Jeter limped off the field before the outcome was final.
When Raul Ibanez swatted a pair of dramatic homers to lift the Yankees to a 3-2 victory in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, Jeter found himself as a spectator in the dugout. In Game 4, it's possible he will again be a mere observer.
"It's a bone bruise, and it's day-to-day, and we'll see how he feels tomorrow," manager Joe Girardi said. "Hopefully, we can get him back there."
Jeter, taking his usual approach to injuries, offered no details. He acknowledged undergoing an X-Ray, but refused to reveal its result. He admitted to feeling pain, but wouldn't reveal if it worsened through the game. He shared that he had to convince Girardi to stay in the game.
He offered one declaration.
"I will play," said Jeter, who insisted that his new injury was in a different spot from his previous one.
Jeter rolled, then reinjured, his left ankle last month. He stubbornly kept playing. But when he fouled a pitch off his left foot in his first at-bat Wednesday night, he made it clear with every step that the pain had returned. When he hobbled down the line on his single in the sixth, Girardi and team trainer Steve Donohue reached the top step of the dugout, then stayed there. "But you could see he was limping pretty good," Girardi said.
But before the top of the ninth inning, with the Yankees desperate to keep the Orioles' lead to one run, Girardi took no chances. After Jeter limped out of the batters' box to end the eighth inning, he was pulled for a defensive replacement, Jayson Nix.
Jeter just wrapped up his best offensive season since 2009, hitting .316 with an on-base percentage of .362. His 216 hits were his most in a single season since 1999. Perhaps, it's why all-time hits leader Pete Rose recently appeared a bit protective of his all-time hits record.
Rose told the Sports on Earth website this week that his all-time hits record of 4,256 remains safe from Jeter, who has amassed 3,304 lifetime hits. The former Reds star believes that at age 38, Jeter's window eventually will close before he has a chance to make a serious run at the record. He also cited the demands that Jeter faces at shortstop as another potential deterrent.
With a healthy dose of indifference, Jeter shrugged at Rose's assertion, insisting that it was "the last thing on my mind right now." Indeed, by the end of the night, Jeter had one more important matters to worry about.
With David Lennon