OAKLAND, Calif. - It is the signature play in a career full of them, and Derek Jeter has always been clear on this point about the "flip play'' from Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS against the A's:
There was nothing fluky about it.
"I was where I was supposed to be,'' he said.
The shortstop, as he does before the first game of every city in which he's making his final visit, spoke before Friday night's game with the local media. The primary topic was his backhanded flip to Jorge Posada that just beat Jeremy Giambi to the plate to end the seventh inning and preserve the Yankees' 1-0 lead.
The play, which Jeter and Joe Torre have long said the club worked on during spring training, kept the A's from tying Game 3 of a best-of-five series that they led two games to none. The Yankees won that game and the next two to advance to the ALCS, with most pointing to Jeter's play as the difference.
"It was an unbelievable play,'' said Alfonso Soriano, the Yankees' second baseman that day. "I think after that play, we had more motivation to win the series. I think that was the big key of the series, that play.''
It unfolded this way: With Giambi on first in the seventh against Mike Mussina, Terrance Long roped one into the rightfield corner. Shane Spencer retrieved the ball and came up firing, but his throw sailed over two cutoff men, Soriano and first baseman Tino Martinez.
But Jeter, sprinting across the first-base line, took Spencer's throw on the hop and, in one motion, made like an option quarterback with his backhand flip to Posada, who tagged out the lumbering and non-sliding Giambi. A's manager Art Howe to this day has been second-guessed for not pinch running for one of his slowest players.
Although Soriano and plenty of players from both teams point to the "flip play'' as the series-changer, Jeter isn't sure.
"I don't know,'' he said. "It was a big moment in that game but we still had two more games after that.''
The A's certainly weren't interested in reliving the moment. In the tribute video they put together for Jeter, who will be honored before Sunday's game, the play was not included.
"I've seen it,'' Jeter said with a smile. "I'm sure they've all seen it too.''
It's a play rarely duplicated. Few could remember seeing the likes of it before that October, and if it's happened since then, it's occurred far under the radar.
"I don't know how many teams have cutoff scenarios like that,'' Jeter said. "And a lot of things have to go right and then also, a couple of things have to go wrong in order for it to happen. I think that one was just sort of a perfect storm.''
Notes & quotes: Though Michael Pineda (strained teres major muscle) might start throwing again next week, Girardi said the righthander likely will have to go through the equivalent of another spring training before being ready to pitch again. "I would think August is probably realistic,'' Girardi said . . . The Yankees signed righthanded reliever Heath Bell to a minor-league contract, taking a flyer on the Padres' former star closer, who has fallen on hard times. Bell, 36, posted a 7.27 ERA in 13 games with the Rays this season before being released. He had a 4.22 ERA for the Orioles' Triple-A Norfolk team before opting out of his contract earlier in the week.