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CC Sabathia on Derek Jeter: 'You want a guy like that to play forever'

CC Sabathia and Derek Jeter meet at the

CC Sabathia and Derek Jeter meet at the mound. (July 17, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

TAMPA, Fla. - CC Sabathia spoke for himself but probably captured the thoughts of most Yankees fans.

"Not really surprised," Sabathia said Friday morning regarding Derek Jeter's announcement Wednesday that this season will be his last. "Saddened, I guess, that he's not going to be around. You want a guy like that to play forever."

The Yankees announced Friday morning that the shortstop's official retirement news conference will be at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

While pitchers and catchers reported to Steinbrenner Field on Friday, Jeter reported down the street to the minor-league complex to work out, as he has much of the last three months.

"Feeling great," Jeter -- who is coming off an injury-plagued 2013 in which he played 17 games -- said in brief comments to reporters afterward.

Any lingering health concerns? "None," he said.

And, as was the case Thursday, he did not elaborate on his announcement. "Like I said, man, you can ask me 20 different ways, I'll talk to you when I get over there on Wednesday," Jeter said without anger.

Although Jeter was not at Steinbrenner Field on Friday, to the surprise of no one, he remained the dominant topic of conversation.

In his spring training "kickoff" news conference, Joe Girardi had plenty to discuss regarding this year's club, and there was no shortage of questions about Jeter's decision, his impact and, of course, his playing time.

The latter could have proved dicey for Girardi -- and still could when it comes to late-inning defensive adjustments -- but Jeter's acknowledgment in his Facebook retirement post that his body isn't what it once was takes some pressure off the manager.

"It's the nature of the business where people age and they move on and they do different things in their life, and in our life [baseball], it's a little quicker than other working people," said Girardi, who earlier said he had "no inkling" that a retirement decision was coming. "It is not something we'll think about all year -- 'is this going to be it?' -- because he said this is going to be it. So from that standpoint, that will be easier."

As for playing time, at shortstop or DH, Girardi said: "He'll basically determine that based on how he's doing and how he's feeling. Obviously, as a manager, you'd love to be able to run Derek Jeter out there every day, but we know that's not the case."

David Robertson said, "It's kind of hard to put into words what it means to take the field with Derek" and called him "the face of the franchise."

The presumed heir to Mariano Rivera recalled the first time he saw the shortstop go deep into the hole for a ball, then make one of his jump throws across the diamond to get the runner at first.

Said Robertson: "We were playing the Florida Marlins and he does it and I'm like I can't believe he got to that ball, jumped and threw it, and I got to see it in person. It's memories like that I'm going to hold on to and cherish because not everyone gets that opportunity."

Brian McCann, signed to a five-year, $85-million deal, called Jeter "the model of consistency" and a player looked up to in every opposing dugout.

"I think he's what every player strives to be like," said McCann, who spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Braves and heard from Jeter via phone shortly after signing with the Yankees. "The career he's had speaks for itself. You grow up as a kid, he was the guy that was the face of baseball. He was in the playoffs every year, he's the right place at the right time every play. If you're a baseball fan, regardless of who you cheer for, you respect the guy. He's what baseball's about."

With David Lennon

New York Sports