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Derek Jeter isn't hitting, but at least he's healthy this time around

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, left, watches teammates take

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, left, watches teammates take batting practice before a game against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Baltimore. Credit: AP / Patrick Semansky

BALTIMORE -- A little more than a year ago, Derek Jeter sat in the same Camden Yards interview room and discussed a "nightmare" of a season.

"It's very disappointing not to be able to play, especially this time of year," Jeter said Sept. 6, 2013, after being placed on the disabled list for a fourth and final time with a season-ending ankle injury. "The entire year has been pretty much a nightmare for me physically, so I guess it's fitting that it ends like this."

Barring something unforeseen, this season won't end on the disabled list -- somewhat of a surprise, given all the ailments Jeter endured last season that limited him to 17 games in which he hit .190.

"Last year was a difficult season health-wise, it goes without saying," Jeter, 40, said before Sunday night's 3-2 loss to the Orioles. "It's different circumstances. I'm happy with the fact that up until this point, I don't want to jinx anything, but that I've been healthy and been able to play. So yeah, it's completely different circumstances here. So it's much better to be here in this position than last season."

His team, however, appears headed for a similar end -- meaning no playoffs in the shortstop's final season.

The Yankees (76-72) are 12 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Orioles (89-60) and five games behind the Royals (81-67) in the race for the second wild card. The Mariners (80-68) are four games ahead of the Yankees.

The Yankees find themselves in that position in large part because of an offense that has struggled all season, with Jeter among the large group of players having rough times.

After going 0-for-4 Sunday night, Jeter is in an 0-for-24 skid that has dropped his batting average to .250 and his on-base percentage to .298. He hit .207 with a .226 OBP in August, which gave way to a September in which he is hitting .116 with a .188 OBP and .140 slugging percentage. In his last 32 games, he has a .164/.199/.188 slash line.

"Pressing? No, not Derek. I don't think Derek would ever press," Joe Girardi said before the game. "Could he physically be tired? Well, it's September and you're going to ask every player that and they're all going to be a little bit tired at this time of year."

Girardi has mentioned Jeter hitting the ball harder of late -- as demonstrated by a lineout right into the glove of pitcher Miguel Gonzalez in the third inning Saturday -- with the results just not showing it.

"I'm sure it bothers him a lot," Girardi said. "He's not going to let on that it bothers him, but he expects greatness every time he goes out there. That's who he is and that's what's made him a great player, so I'm sure it bothers him."

Just as Girardi said, Jeter didn't cop to being bothered by the lack of results, putting the focus where he usually does.

"The result is we won yesterday, and the only result I'm concerned with is us trying to win today," Jeter said.

"Trust me, I want to do probably better than most people every single time that I play, but that's not the case. You go [through] good times, bad times, but you have to be able to forget it. And at this point in the season, our No. 1 goal is to try to win games . . . It's always important to win, but to win games [now] is of extreme importance."

Notes & quotes: Girardi said Chase Headley, who was hit in the jaw by Jake McGee's 96-mph fastball Thursday night, was available to pinch hit Sunday night and could return to the lineup Monday night in St. Petersburg, Florida, against the Rays . . . Francisco Cervelli, out the last 13 games with migraine headaches, has not had one in about a week and said "they're gone." But he added that he doesn't expect clearance to play from doctors until after this trip.

New York Sports