It looks like Derek Jeter will be getting an early jump on the 2011 season by heading down to Tampa in two weeks to work out with New York Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long--three weeks before the start of spring training.
When last seen Jeter was happily splashing around the Caribbean with his girl Minka Kelly. This was after a disappointing season as a player and an early exit from the playoffs. The year was capped off with a mockery of drawn out contract negotiations with the Yankees. The turbulent contract talks had Jeter--normally a company man--suggesting, after the new contract was signed, that the team leaked information during the talks to make the Yankee star look like the bad guy. All in all, it wasn't the best of times for the face of the team and future Hall of Famer.
Long has worked with other players during the off-season but never with Jeter. "He wants to get going," said Long from his home in Arizona. " We're well on our way to getting that [Jeter's low average] taken care of and seeing if we can't speed up the process with him a little bit," he said.
Jeter isn't the only Yankee taking last season not sitting down. Long will piling on the frequent flier miles after he spent time in Los Angeles working with outfielder Nick Swisher. Next week he will be in New York working with first-baseman Mark Teixeira before heading down to Miami to work with third-baseman Alex Rodriquez and newly-appointed DH Jorge Posada.
Long is prepared to correct any problems which caused Jeter to put up the worst numbers of his solid career.
"I think we found something with his stride and the direction of his stride and going up and down with his stride instead of gaining distance and going in," said the hitting coach. "We're going to keep it as simple as possible."
While Jeter gets a jump on his new three-year deal, things don't look so good for the Yankees and their veteran pitcher Andy Pettitte.
"Don't count on me," is what Pettitte told Cashman.
The Yankee GM tried clarify Pettitte's statement by saying, " I don't think he's determined if he's officially finished or not , but he's chosen at this stage at least not to start in 2011. If that ever changes, he'll call us," said Cashman. "We're not going to hound him or bother him," he said.
Pettitte has pulled this will he or won't he act before. The Yankees, who did not add a big-time starter to the rotation this off-season, are probably hoping for the 38 year-old Pettitte's return.
Even if Pettitte does return to baseball, it could be in another uniform. The Texas native desires to be near his family and reportedly has not been working out during the off-season--which he normally does.
Pettitte has repeatedly claimed that if he does return, it would only be in Yankee pinstripes.
The lack of big-name pickup during the off-season pick-up could sway Pettitte. He pitched 21 games last season and finished 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA. The Yankees are looking at an average starting rotation, even with Pettitte, with little help on the horizon.
Pettitte confessed in 2008 to using human growth hormone will be a star witness in the government's case against his old teammate and buddy, Roger Clemens this summer.
Clemens trial--which the former pitcher is accused of lying under oath about using steroids and HGH--is scheduled for July and could put a considerable amount of stress and a limit on Pettitte's time. I'm sure Pettitte would rather face the potent Red Sox lineup then to be cross-examined by Clemens tough-as-a-cowboy's saddle, attorney Rusty Hardin.
Cashman says he is ready to push forward, with or without Pettitte. "I'm actively out there," the GM said. "It's a very thin market to be flying in right now. That's why we may have to rely on our strong farm system a little bit sooner than we expected."
All signs seem to point to a Pettitte retirement but, for now, Cashman better get down on the farm sooner anyway.