Derek Jeter starting 'to finally feel comfortable'
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DUNEDIN, Fla. - Derek Jeter always says spring training for him is about getting "comfortable,'' which has taken longer this year than in previous years.
But the 39-year-old shortstop continued to show signs Wednesday that he's making progress.
Jeter, who entered the game hitting .128 with a .180 OBP, went 1-for-2 with a walk against the Blue Jays, lining a single to right-center in his second at-bat. Tuesday night against the Phillies, he went 1-for-3, lining a single to center.
"I told someone that a few days ago is when I started to finally feel comfortable,'' Jeter said after the Yankees' 10-6 loss. "So I don't ever group the whole spring together. I want to be comfortable when Opening Day comes, and today was another good step in that direction.''
Except for perhaps Masahiro Tanaka, Jeter has been watched more closely than any player in camp. Every game has been broken down, at the plate and in the field, looking for signs of what is to come.
That's because of Jeter's age and last season, when injuries limited him to 17 games. Now the Yankees, with questions peppered about their entire infield, need Jeter more than ever.
"You want guys to feel good about their at-bats leaving spring training, that they're where they want to be, their timing's good,'' Joe Girardi said. "They're recognizing breaking balls, they're getting to balls they usually get to. I think it's important. And I think he's swung the bat better the last few days, and that's important.''
One opposing team's scout said Jeter hasn't looked good at the plate, but the scout isn't yet ready to chalk it up to age.
"The bat's slower, the swing is longer,'' the scout said. "But if your timing is off, you look terrible no matter who you are. Maybe it's just taking a little longer to get his timing . . . I see him get jammed more and I see him reach more, and those two things you didn't really see before. But I'll bet you when it's done, he'll hit .265, .275.''
That is a long way off, and the priority for the Yankees this spring has been Jeter physically being able to handle the workload. To this point, he has.
"The big thing for me is he's healthy,'' Girardi said. "He's responding day after day, coming back after playing four out of five days. I think he's starting to swing the bat a little bit better, get the ball in the air on some line drives.''
The vast majority of Jeter's outs this spring have come on the ground, but he said that's typical of his progression in getting ready for the season.
"For me every spring it's pretty much the same thing,'' Jeter said. "This year may have taken a little bit longer, but first you want to make sure you're seeing the ball. Then you want to make sure you're swinging at good pitches, then it's making good contact. Driving balls in the air is usually the last thing that comes.
"Usually, it's been like that every spring, this year maybe it just took longer than other ones, but I think that's understandable considering I haven't played in quite some time.''
But he emphasized readiness for the season is the main concern, and in that regard the spring has been a success.
"The goal is to get ready for Opening Day,'' he said. "Sometimes you have to use more of the spring than others to get ready, but I feel good where I am right now.''