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Replacing Jeter, Nix ready for the challenge

10/16/2012 11:12 AM ET
By Jon Lane

Jayson Nix was thrust into the Yankees' starting lineup by the injury to Derek Jeter.(AP)
This was the very last thing Jayson Nix expected. The position Nix owns for the immediate future is shortstop for the New York Yankees, sacred ground since 1996 when a youngster named Derek Sanderson Jeter took over as the infield glue full-time.

Replacing Jeter, out for at least the next three months with a fractured left ankle, is a daunting task – or so it seems. Rather than let it overwhelm him, Nix is primed to make the most of his opportunity. In other words it’s business as usual instead of a tough adjustment.

“It is really not,” Nix said on a conference call. “It's what I have been doing all year. The days I wouldn't be starting, you know, I would cover all different positions and get a lot of work in at BP. But the days I would be starting I would just focus on that one position and do it during BP.”

Rafael Soriano didn’t wilt replacing the irreplaceable Mariano Rivera, except Soriano accepted the challenge with lots of cachet as baseball’s saves leader in 2010. Nix was a first-round pick (30th overall) by the Colorado Rockies in 2001, but has since been a journeyman utility player with the Rox, White Sox, Indians and Blue Jays before signing with the Yankees as a Minor League free agent. Nix batted .243 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 74 games during the regular season and is 2-for-4 in three postseason games. A sparkplug off the bench and occasionally batting ninth, Nix will now have to do get it done full-time with the Yankees staring at an 0-2 ALCS deficit.

A tall order? Hardly.

"I would say exciting is the main word that would come to my mind," Nix said. "At the same time, I am very disappointed for Derek. I hate the fact that he has gone down and is missing the opportunity to play in these playoffs."

Jeter was injured lunging for Jhonny Peralta’s ground ball in the 12th inning of Saturday’s Game 1. He twisted his ankle, fell to the ground and was helped off the field. Surgery appears likely for the Yankees captain, and he’s expected to be ready for Spring Training, but with everything on the line, it’s Nix who has to pull a Soriano in what amounts to a crisis situation.

“At the same time I'm excited for my opportunity to be able to play,” Nix said. “And ever since these playoffs started, I've really just been kind of itching to get in these games. But there has been a lot of emotions. With Derek going down, the role changes, been a lot of emotions. But it has been a lot of fun.”

Nix had some options during the offseason, but chose to try out for the Yankees’ loaded roster thinking if an opportunity develops, then what better team to play for than the Bronx Bombers.

“I knew they were going to give me a shot,” Nix said. “So I wanted to take it. And I thought it might be a good fit.”

That fit has become a vital necessity. Nix isn’t Jeter, but he’s poised to take his best shot. He’s not sweating it either. In fact, it’s a bit less work, but that’s a good thing.

“It is a transition that I have gone in and out of all season long, and it really just means less work for me during batting practice actually,” Nix said.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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