TAMPA, Fla. - Derek Jeter understands the questions.
Although he said last week that he's put what happened in 2010 behind him, the shortstop acknowledged in December that there is only one way to prove the disappointing season was an anomaly.
"You'd like to think that last year was a hiccup, so to speak,'' Jeter said Dec. 7 when his new three-year contract (with a player option for a fourth season) was formally announced. "But it's my job to go out there and prove that it was. I understand any concerns that anyone has, especially from an organizational standpoint. They're entitled to those concerns, so it's my job to go out and change that opinion.''
The person who irritated Jeter the most during contract negotiations that grew heated at times strongly believes the Yankees will see a Jeter who more closely resembles the one who entered 2010 with a .317 career average than the one who hit a career-worst .270.
"Derek's tremendous at looking at areas of the game he needs to improve on," general manager Brian Cashman said Friday. "Once he's told what to work on, he gets after it. He worked with Kevin Long [last month] on some mechanical adjustments that are slight, and he hasn't done that before. Just like a few years ago, he did some work on his lateral range, and it worked."
Jeter, who turns 37 June 26, enters the season 74 hits short of 3,000. With no Yankee having reached that plateau, the fan and media interest in that chase figures to eclipse his pursuit of the franchise's all-time hits record two years ago. Jeter, per his nature, typically downplays individual achievements in the best of times; should he start slowly, talk of 3,000 will become even more of an annoyance.
He said Monday he didn't change his offseason routine this year, working out at the end of November and showing up at the complex for on-field drills in mid-January. The one change, as Cashman said, was having hitting coach Long come in two weeks ago for three days of work.
It was the continuation of alterations the two made to Jeter's swing late last August, changes that allowed him to finish strong. He hit .276 in September/October with a .369 OBP, his highest OBP of any month. In his final 17 games, Jeter had a .347 batting average and .435 OBP.
"Basically what we did is we were just picking up where we left off the last month of last season,'' Jeter said last week. "The changes that we made at the end of August, usually you don't make those changes in the middle of the season . . . because it takes a long time to get comfortable with it. So we were just trying to continue that.''
Said Cashman: "He's a guy who's very motivated to be the best he can be, and I think this year you'll see the Derek Jeter we're used to seeing."
Jeter's subpar 2010 season contributed to contract negotiations that became too public for his liking, and he expressed his anger at the December news conference announcing the deal.
Jeter ended up settling on a deal averaging about $16 million a season, a cut from the $21 million he made in the last year of his 10-year, $189-million deal.
But everything is behind him, he told reporters this past week. No lingering bitterness regarding the contract talks, and certainly no looking back at his issues at the plate.
"I've always been pretty good in my career in terms of forgetting about previous seasons, whether it's a good season or a bad season, and I mean that from a team standpoint," Jeter said. "Whether you win or you lose, you don't go into spring training walking around just because you won that everything's going to be easy that next year. You have to forget about it; you have to move on. I think it goes that way when you're talking [individually] as well. You have to be able to put previous seasons behind you and focus on the one coming up."