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Jeter confused by Bobby V's 'flip' motive

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, left, and third baseman

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, left, and third baseman Alex Rodriguez warm up during spring training in Tampa. (Feb. 25, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees mostly held their fire Wednesday while responding to Bobby Valentine's comments from Tuesday, and by early afternoon the new Red Sox manager had mostly apologized.

"Why are we talking about this?" Jeter said, smiling. "Must be bored over there."

Valentine stirred things up a bit Tuesday in Fort Myers when the subject of Jeter's "flip play" from Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS came up.

"I think [Jeter] was out of position. I think the ball gets him out if [Jeter] doesn't touch it, personally,'' Valentine said.

Valentine also said of the contention that the Yankees practiced that play, "I don't believe it." On the latter point, Valentine admitted Wednesday to being wrong, having discussed it with his bullpen coach, Gary Tuck, a one-time Yankees coach.

"Total mistake on my part because they do practice it, that's for sure," Valentine said, according to The Boston Globe. "It's hard to practice that because why are we going to practice a bad throw? That's not what we're doing here. But I get it. I get it."

He said later: "I want it on record that I love Derek Jeter as a player. It was not a slight towards him. I love him as a guy, too."

Speaking earlier Wednesday Jeter, seeming mostly amused by the subject matter, said, "We do practice that but not the flip home. I mean, how did this come up?"

He added: "Am I supposed to convince him ?"

Eric Chavez, a member of the 2001 A's now in his second spring training with the Yankees, didn't believe it at first either. "We did it last year, too, and I was like, 'Oh, God, they do practice it.' " he said. "Because when I heard about it I was like, there's no way you practice that. But I guess they do."

Coincidentally, the Yankees did work on cutoffs and relays Wednesday morning. Jeter, on a single to right, ended up past the first-base line -- very much like the "flip play" -- and his momentum carried him several feet from several reporters.

"See?" he said. "We do work on it."

Joe Girardi wasn't interested in engaging Valentine, though he said of the play: "Ever since I've been here, in 1996, we've asked our shortstops to kind of float in the infield."

Jeter wasn't the only Yankees star to be a subject of a Valentine barb. In speaking about Jason Varitek on Tuesday, Valentine lauded the retiring catcher's attributes, then added playfully, "He was able to beat up Alex, all that stuff."

Rodriguez said he wasn't aware of the comment and didn't bite when informed of it.

"I'm not going to win many battles here when it comes to words, especially against Bobby," A-Rod said. "But I will tell you this, I have my new press secretary who should be landing in the next couple of days, Reggie Jackson. So I'll let him handle that."

A thought has been Valentine was trying to "stir" things up in the rivalry or take pressure off his players by putting it on himself. Said Jeter: "I don't know Bobby well enough to tell you what he's trying to do. I could care less is I guess the best way to put it."

Girardi, appearing perplexed more than anything over the comments, demurred.

"Over the years this rivalry has been great and it's usually not because of what is said," Girardi said. "It's usually because of the games on the field. I'm not sure why he made the comments . . . you know what's going to matter? Wins and losses."

Jeter said he was "indifferent" to the whole story, though he said of Varitek: "I'd point out the good things. He's had an unbelievable career. I enjoyed competing against him all these years, that's what we should be talking about as opposed to what Bobby said."

As luck would have it, the man Valentine replaced, Terry Francona, was in the Yankees' clubhouse as part of his new duties as an ESPN analyst.

Said Francona: "To me it's not important whether the Yankees practice that play or not, the fact is he's good enough to make that play. You could practice that play till you're blue in the face, he's still the only guy who makes the play. That play is part of baseball lore. And again, I don't doubt they do practice it. But he's probably the only guy that makes the play . . . he sees the field better than anybody in baseball."

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