Girardi: Jeter's still my leadoff man

Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees looks on from the dugout during the game against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium. (June 14, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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CINCINNATI -- Derek Jeter resumed on-field work Tuesday, an encouraging sign for Joe Girardi that the shortstop could be ready to return as soon as his 15-day stint on the disabled list expires.

But whether that comes on the first day Jeter is eligible, June 29, or sometime after, Girardi said the leadoff spot again will be his. "Derek's been our leadoff guy," Girardi said.

He added, "We'll have to see how he feels but, yeah," Jeter will be hitting leadoff.

The exchange came during Girardi's media briefing, shortly before the announcement that last night's game against the Reds had been rained out. It will be made up as part of a split doubleheader Wednesday, with Freddy Garcia (5-6, 3.63 ERA) facing Mike Leake (6-3, 4.04) at 12:35 p.m., and Brian Gordon (0-0, 3.38), last night's scheduled starter, against Johnny Cueto (4-2, 1.68) at 7:10.

In Jeter's absence because of a strained right calf, Gardner has been the leadoff man against righthanders, with Nick Swisher leading off against lefties.

Gardner, after an awful start to the season, has raised his average to .293, with a .371 on-base percentage. He's hitting .356 in 52 games since April 26, when he was at .136. In the Yankees' last 11 games, he's batting a major-league best .472 (17-for-36).

Whether Jeter (.260, .324 OBP) should be moved down in the order never became more than a whisper earlier in the season, primarily because there wasn't much in the way of appealing replacements. But the topic will return if Jeter starts slowly upon his return and Gardner stays hot.

Before the rainout, Gardner at first said he didn't have an answer for his recent play. "If I could point to exactly why I was so bad, I wouldn't have been bad in the first place," he said. "And if I could point to exactly why I've been good recently, I wouldn't ever waver from that."

But he did say a slight adjustment -- moving closer to the plate -- that hitting coach Kevin Long suggested toward the end of April has played a role.

"I definitely think it helped me out," Gardner said. "I don't think that's the difference in hitting .110 and .350, but little things like that [helped]. What I was doing wasn't working."

Gardner is hitting .286 with a .390 OBP against lefties, but Girardi has tended to play Andruw Jones against lefty starters.

"I don't have a problem playing Gardy against lefties," Girardi said. "But we got Andruw to provide some power for us against lefties, and with [Curtis] Granderson, the way he's swung the bat, it's hard to take him out against lefties."

When asked if it can be frustrating being the one who goes to the bench against lefthanders, Gardner said, "Maybe a little bit.

"There's other guys that are going to get at-bats and I understand that. That's part it. You just come to the park every day ready to play."

Notes & quotes: Girardi had intended to rest Alex Rodriguez Wednesday, and he said he would likely receive one of the two games off . . . Eduardo Nuñez was out of last night's lineup, replaced by Ramiro Peña, because Nuñez had played seven straight days . . . Bartolo Colon, on the DL with a strained left hamstring, started his throwing program, which included long toss at 120 feet, in Tampa. Rafael Soriano (right elbow inflammation), Damaso Marte (left shoulder surgery) and Pedro Feliciano (left rotator cuff strain) played catch. It was the first time Soriano did that since going on the DL May 17. "The reports were that he felt good today," Girardi said . . . Eric Chavez (fractured left foot), who also is rehabbing in Tampa, did some hitting.

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