Friday, July 12, 2013

Jeter's Back, But Was It Too Soon?

Yankees win as Jeter returns to the lineup and aggravates his quad

By Rich Mancuso

BRONX, NEW YORK, JULY 12- Derek Jeter was not expected back at Yankee Stadium until Friday night. But minor injuries to Brett Gardner and Travis Hafner caused his four-game rehab assignment at Scranton cut short. General manager Brian Cashman called him late Wednesday night and he was ready.

“I was nervous going into the game,” said the 39-year-old Jeter who returned to the Yankees lineup Thursday afternoon. It was, as he said, “Opening Day” returning to the lineup for the first time since sustaining a break to his left ankle when turning a double play last October 12 in the Bronx during Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Tigers.

He went 1-for-4, scored a run on an RBI groundout in his first at bat, inserted second in the lineup as the designated hitter. There was some concern though, as Jeter was pulled for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning because of a tight right quad. He was going to undergo an MRI after the game.

“It’s just stiff,” said Jeter who does not expect to miss more time. “We’ll find out tomorrow.” Manager Joe Girardi also expects Jeter to be available Friday night when the Yankees open a three-game series at the stadium with the Minnesota Twins, their last series before the all-star break.

New York defeated Kansas City 8-4, splitting a four-game series with the Royals. It was the second straight game a struggling Yankees offense scored eight runs.

“Hopefully he will be back tomorrow,” commented Girardi when asked how serious the quad injury is, and if it would cause another setback for the Yankees captain. The original plan, according to Girardi and Cashman wasn’t to bring Jeter back Thursday.

“Just felt if he was going to play down in Triple- A today he could play here,” said Girardi. He said the team was excited he was back, adding, “It was great to put his name in the lineup.”

“We will see how he feels tomorrow, evaluate and see what the tests say,” he added when asked again if Jeter would be available Friday night.

“I felt fine, I felt good going from first to third,” said Jeter about his first inning and first at bat in the Bronx since breaking the left ankle. He also ran out a couple of ground balls and said he felt good up until the point when the quad gave him a problem.

With the Yankees down 3-0, Jeter stepped in the batter’s box in the bottom of the first inning. The Yankee stadium afternoon crowd of 40,381 made the introduction with a loud standing ovation. There was no announcement of his name from public address announcer Paul Olden. The recorded voice of the late Bob Sheppard, longtime PA announcer at the stadium, did not say, “Now batting for the Yankees, Number 2-Derek Jeter.”

Jeter reached on an infield single to third that Miguel Tejada had trouble handling. He hustled up the line to first, and easily made it to third when Robinson Cano singled to center. Vernon Wells got him home on a sacrifice fly and once again the stadium crowd roared for Jeter.

His next at bat in the Yankees two-run second inning, with two-outs and Ichiro Suzuki on first as the tying run, Jeter grounded out to third. This time though, the voice of Sheppard was heard. Jeter always said as long as he was a Yankee the voice of Bob Sheppard would announce his name when he got to the batter’s box.

Maybe Jeter returning to the lineup, days before the all-star break is what the Yankees needed to spark their offense that has been struggling, though the night before they scored 8-runs, their most at home this season.

“Fans were great, like opening day,” said Jeter about the ovation.” I expect the same thing, win games. I expect nothing different,” he said about what to expect now that he is back In the Yankees lineup after recovering the past nine months.

He added, ”After four games in Scranton, I had a lot of bats... I thought I was coming up Friday.” Cashman left him a message on his phone late Wednesday night when he was in the Scranton clubhouse.

“I wanted to be here but thought it would be Friday. Now I am ready to go at it again. I’m ready to go, I want to play. My ankle is fine. My job has always been to get on base, score runs and try and help us win. That’s the way it’s always been.”

Girardi was elated to have the captain back in his lineup. “He got a hit, scored a run, I’ll take that every day,” he said.

Pettitte (7-6) threw the ball well, 5.2 innings, four runs, a walk and strikeout despite yielding three runs in the first. It was his second straight win, the first time he has done that since winning each of his first three starts of the season.

Lyle Overbay, who drove in four runs with a grand slam home run Wednesday night, knocked in two more with a bases loaded single in the fifth inning.

For the moment, Jeter is back. And that has everyone smiling at Yankee Stadium. As Girardi said before the game Thursday, “Were better with him here regardless of the outcome today. It’s good for the club, good for the fans.”

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