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Jeter beats out bunt single: He's ready

Derek Jeter smiles before playing his second game

Derek Jeter smiles before playing his second game with Trenton as part of his rehab. (July 3, 2011) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

TRENTON -- A bunt single is not necessarily the type of play that makes Derek Jeter a perennial All-Star. It is, however, the type of play that makes him Derek Jeter. And it is the sort of thing that allows him to say the words he said after he left a Double-A rehab start Sunday night: "I've got a plane to catch."

Jeter was on his way to Cleveland as quickly as he got down to first base on that surprise bunt in the fifth inning for the Trenton Thunder Sunday night. Jeter could have just stood there and taken a swing against Altoona and not risked re-injuring the right calf that has kept him away from the Yankees since June 13. But that wouldn't have been Jeter, who learned Sunday that he will be the American League's starting shortstop in the All-Star Game.

Of course, he took it upon himself to bunt with two on and none out. "I don't know the signs," he said, then flashed the trademark Jeter half-grin.

When he was asked how the calf held up on that sprint to first, he told reporters, "I didn't feel a thing. You know I wouldn't tell you guys anyway. But if I was scared, I wouldn't have tried it.

"It's something I would do during the season," said the man whose season will resume Monday night.

July 4 always is a special day in the Yankees' universe: It's the anniversary of Lou Gehrig's speech, George Steinbrenner's birth and Dave Righetti's no-hitter. Now it will be the day when the captain comes back.

"He's good to go," said general manager Brian Cashman, who was at Waterfront Park for a second consecutive night.

Officially, Jeter's figures for the Thunder Sunday night were these: 1-for-2, a walk, a strikeout, four assists, a putout and an error. But Yankees-watchers have known for years that numbers aren't the best measure of Jeter. There is a certain quality about him that can draw a Trenton record crowd of 9,212. That quality made him a major league All-Star again Sunday, hours before he threw everything he had into his six innings of a Double-A game.

Should Jeter really be an All-Star this year? "Why wouldn't he be? That's my answer to that," Trenton manager Tony Franklin said. "How can you have an All-Star Game and not have Derek Jeter? I grew up in the era of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks and those guys. How could you have an All-Star Game if you don't have those guys? I feel the same about Derek."

Cashman said that despite the injury, Jeter should play in the Midsummer Classic. "It's an honor," the general manager said. "If we can send him to Cleveland, he can play three innings of an All-Star Game."

But isn't Cashman worried that Jeter could aggravate the injury? "If I was,'' he said, "I wouldn't have activated him."

Jeter had admitted to being nervous Saturday in his first competition after the disabled-list stint. Sunday night, he confessed to being "uncomfortable." He, like the rest of the Thunder, wore garish July 4 shirts with wide red-and-white stripes and blue sleeves with big white stars.

"Cash took a picture," Jeter said of the general manager, "and sent it to my team."

That would be the Yankees, who will get their captain back Monday night.

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