No one expects Jeter to be going anywhere

Yankees captain Derek Jeter smiles as Robinson Cano Yankees captain Derek Jeter smiles as Robinson Cano looks on. (Oct. 17, 2010) Photo Credit: John Dunn

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ARLINGTON, Texas - Derek Jeter held firm to his spring training pledge.

He said he would discuss his contract once, in late February, and only once.

"It won't be a distraction because I won't be talking about it,'' Jeter said Feb. 24 in Tampa, referring to entering the final year of a 10-year, $189- million deal.

In the visiting clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark moments after the Yankees were bounced from the playoffs Friday night, Jeter wasn't ready to warm to the topic.

"I can't think about that,'' he said, sitting on a chair in the front of his locker, surrounded on three sides by a horde of reporters. "We just lost, what, 15 minutes ago? I'm not thinking about myself right now.''

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Had it dawned on him during the game that it was possible he had just played his final game in pinstripes?

"No, because you're trying to come back,'' he said. "You're trying to win the game. So, no.''

Now it's Jeter who's trying to come back, and the Yankees would like to see him do it. The man ultimately in charge of re-signing Jeter, general manager Brian Cashman, all but guaranteed in spring training that Jeter will return next season, and he didn't move from the position Friday.

"I don't see that happening,'' he said of the prospect of Jeter playing for anyone but the Yankees in 2011 and beyond.

The upcoming negotiations between Cashman and Jeter's agent, Casey Close, do have potential stumbling blocks, though teammates can't picture any conclusion other than Jeter in New York.

"Derek will be in a Yankee uniform, that's for sure,'' said Andy Pettitte, who will be a free agent himself.

When he was asked if he could see any scenario that would have Jeter wearing a different uniform next season, Alex Rodriguez simply said, "No, not at all.'' The same goes for Mariano Rivera, who also will be a free agent.

"Obviously, we don't need to say anything about Mo and Jeter,'' A-Rod said. "These two guys are iconic and good friends, and I expect them to be back.''

Cashman said of Jeter and Rivera: "This is where they belong.''

But unlike the soon-to-be-41-year-old Rivera, Jeter showed some signs of age this season. The 36-year-old hit a career-low .270 with a career low .340 on-base percentage. In the field, Jeter still showed considerable ability going to his right - his arm hasn't seemed to decline much, especially on his trademark jump throws from the hole - but reaching balls up the middle was a season-long issue.

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Jeter's pride and determination have helped make him a future Hall of Famer. But will part of the negotiations be that he accepts a change to a less demanding position in another year or two? What length of contract will Jeter want? And although the Yankees are willing to pay Jeter much more than he would get on the open market because of past performance and his untarnished image as the face of the franchise, just how much more remains a question.

Few guard their privacy as closely as Jeter, meaning the negotiations aren't likely to play out amid of flurry of leaks to newspapers and websites. And Jeter might very well have said all he's going to regarding the issue, at least in the short-term.

"I understand the question, but you have to understand my point of view,'' he said Friday. "My point of view is we were trying to win this game and we just lost. So it would be unfair for me to be thinking about it. I'm sure if you ask Andy or the other guys, they'd tell you the same thing. We're trying to win a game. We lost and it feels bad. I'm not sitting here thinking about my future.''

But even Jeter sees pinstripes in that future.

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"I've always felt that way,'' Jeter said Friday. "I've told you guys that before. That hasn't changed.''

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