Yankees captain Derek Jeter needed just one at-bat Thursday night to offer the first meaningful update on the status of his banged-up left foot. After hitting a slow grounder to first base, Jeter charged down the line at nearly full speed, making it to the bag fast enough to make it a close play.
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More importantly, Jeter did it without the noticeable hitch in his step he displayed Wednesday night.
"I feel fine,'' Jeter said before starting as the designated hitter in ALDS Game 4. "I'm good.''
And he was. Jeter went 2-for-6, raising his average in the series to .421. He's had two hits in each game of the series. He also scored the Yankees' run in their 2-1 loss in 13 innings.
One night after banging a foul ball off the top of his left foot, Jeter made good on his vow to play, remaining in the starting lineup for his 156th postseason game. Though he didn't start at shortstop, the Yankees appeared lucky to have Jeter in any capacity, considering the pain he played through in Game 3.
In the first inning Wednesday night, he fouled a ball off his left foot, not far from the ankle he injured twice in the last month. His condition appeared to worsen, especially after legging out a run-scoring triple. Jeter left after eight innings for defensive replacement Jayson Nix. It was the first time he'd ever been forced to leave a postseason game because of injury.
Jeter is notoriously guarded about discussing his bumps and bruises. He has not deviated from that approach, offering only vague responses to pointed questions about his foot. Asked if his bone bruise felt any better or worse a day later, he responded with a perfectly noncommittal "nope, good.''
Joe Girardi said he fared no better when he approached Jeter earlier in the day. "Well, you can imagine the conversation that we had today,'' said Girardi, who recounted the exchange.
"Derek, how you feeling?'' Girardi said.
"Great,'' Jeter responded before declaring he would play.
Girardi imposed a restriction and a caveat. First, Nix would start in his place at shortstop. Second, Jeter would remain in the starting lineup only if he made it through batting practice without an issue.
"If I have to make an adjustment, I have to,'' Girardi said before the Yankees hit. "But my guess is, he's great.''
Jeter reported to the batting cage in a gray hooded sweatshirt. He took a round of swings, fewer than his typical routine, before playing long-toss. Shortly after, he retreated to the clubhouse. He apparently had done enough to convince Girardi.
Though it's unclear when the Yankees will have Jeter back in the field, they went only a few innings without his hot bat.
He passed his first test in his first at-bat of Game 4, hustling down the line on his roller. He passed another test in the third after fouling a ball off his left foot, which was protected by a thick black pad. He quickly got back in the batter's box, although after working the at-bat to 13 pitches, he struck out.
His third time up, he lined a double to right in the sixth and scored the tying run on Cano's groundout. In the seventh, he struck out looking after hitting two balls off his left foot.
"I'm good, man,'' Jeter said before the game. "Like I say, why talk about it? You either play or you don't. I'm playing, so no need to talk about it.''