Pregame Notebook: Jeter back in the lineupInjury to Hafner paved the way for Jeter to make season debut at DH
"It felt nice (to pencil him into the lineup)," manager Joe Girardi said Thursday morning. "It's been a long time. We hoped it would be Opening Day, but he had the setback. … We always expect Derek to play at a high level, but with the situation that happened last night, we're gonna use him as a DH today."
According to general manager Brian Cashman, Jeter was slated to DH in Scranton today in what likely would've been his last rehab game, but Travis Hafner and Brett Gardner's potential unavailability due to minor leg injuries suffered last night made the move to bring Jeter back happen a little early.
"You never know until he plays, but he'll finish his rehab off in the Big Leagues," Cashman said Thursday morning. "Changes that occurred in-game last night made us do some adjustments along the way. When we lost Hafner on a day-to-day situation, right away the thought popped in my head."
Cashman quoted Gene Michael, who was in Scranton watching Jeter's rehab, as well as conversations with Jeter himself as the basis for the final decision.
"He hadn't completed the full profile we set up for him on his rehab, but I've been staying in touch with Derek and he feels good," Cashman said. "With today's situation (with Gardner and Hafner) and a day game, it was either he could DH in Scranton or he could DH today in New York, so we might as well bring him in and have him play here."
Of course, the notoriously coy Jeter has always said that either "I'm playing or I'm not," but the GM said that the Captain gave him the answer he wanted to hear in a phone conversation late last night.
"All I had to hear from him was 'hey, I'm ready' and he said that, so I told him to head on back," Cashman said. "Everybody knows this is where he needs to be, and he knew the game plan, but I told him it could be sooner and it turned out that way due to circumstances here in the Bronx last night."
Jeter is hitting second today behind leadoff hitter Ichiro, and manager Joe Girardi said that he likely will keep The Captain in that No. 2 slot between either Ichiro or Gardner and Robinson Cano for the time being.
"That's what I would've done today if I had Gardy, and we'll just look at it as time goes on," the skipper noted.
As for expectations of Jeter, Cashman and Girardi had different schools of thought.
"You know, I don't really have any; bottom line is Derek is one of the all-time competitors, and he's healthy and moving around well…he's going to be competing on a daily basis," Cashman said. "More times than not, he'll be extremely good for us, and we're better with him here period."
"I expect him to be the Derek he was last year, and there's nothing that tells me right now that he can't be productive and play shortstop for us," Girardi said. "I think (he can be the same in the field); that's the goal."
And as for how the fans will react?
"I think you'll hear in his first at-bat how important it is for him to be around here," Girardi said. "What he's meant to this organization…Derek's a champion, and every day he goes out there he expects to win. That's the attitude that we want around here, so I think him coming back is good for the club and for our fans."
Some other news and notes from the day we welcome back Jeter:
-X-rays on both Gardner and Hafner were negative, and Girardi said their availability depended on how they feel after going through treatment but he "didn't think either of them were starters today." -Gardner spoke to the media in the clubhouse around 10:15 this morning, and said that his ankle "is about as sore as I expected" and he wasn't sure if he'd be available, but noted "it could be worse." "It's sore, but we'll see what happens," Gardner said. "My legs are a big part of my game, and if I can't run there's no use in me playing, so hopefully I'll be able to run."
-Cashman was asked if Jeter's return meant Eduardo Nunez was an option at third base for the time being, a question to which he gave a "yes and no" kind of answer: "I think he's an option based on whatever the other alternatives are, but I just think that comes down to feel from Joe's perspective. We believe that he's a shortstop, but because of his athleticism he can play all over, so I just think it comes down to matchup issues and Joe's comfort level."
-Alex Rodriguez is set to play for the Tampa Yankees again today in the first game of their doubleheader, and despite coming off what Brian Cashman said seemed to be "the best day of his rehab," the plan is still to keep A-Rod at the Class-A level for the first 10 days of his rehab clock and then re-evaluate his status.
"He'll go the full 20 days. He's coming off of a very complicated surgery, and there's a reason he's in A-ball," Cashman said. "Initially we felt the first 10 days would be between Charleston and Tampa and then we'd re-visit, based on where he's at and weather opportunities between Trenton and Scranton. Our people and Alex may have talked amongst themselves about that process, but nothing has happened at my level."
-Final quote goes to Gardner, who joked "Jeter's coming back today?" before positing on the return of The Captain: "It's awesome. I know it's been a long time coming; it seems like just the other day he wanted to start the season on time, and here we are on what, day 90? I can't imagine what he's been through - well, I can, I guess, because of what I went through last year - but it's great to have him back on and off the field. He'll be a big presence and hopefully he's in every game for the rest of the year."