Monday, July 11, 2011

Girardi: Jeter Will Be Leadoff Hitter...Probably

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he is sticking with Derek Jeter batting in the leadoff spot right now, but his endorsement didn't sound like it was etched in stone.

With the aftermath of the Derek Jeter 3,000th hit love fest over the weekend behind him, Girardi is getting back to the main task at hand, namely, keeping pace with the Boston Red Sox and juggling an injury-plagued lineup.

There was no way Girardi was going to take Jeter out of the leadoff spot with number 3,000 within his grasp at Yankee stadium,  but now Girardi has to make the practical decision about who will most benefit the team in the first spot of the Yankees lineup.

Jeter was in his familiar role of Yankees leadoff batter on Sunday and went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Jeter, himself, might have made Girardi's choice a little easier.  The Yankees shortstop's magnificent 5-for-5 day on Saturday might not have been a mirage.  Jeter is batting .391 in five games since coming off the DL.  Girardi sounded confident of Jeter's ability to stay in the top of the lineup, but there was a twinge of non-commitment to his comments.

"Yes I can tell you, there's probably a good chance he's going to hit leadoff on Thursday," said Girardi.  "I'm not sure who we're facing (in Toronto) but right he's our leadoff hitter.  People talk about when Swish (Nick Swisher) comes back, will it be Swish?  Well, Swish led off only against lefties, but Derek's numbers against lefties are really good.  So would you lead off with Gardy (Brett Gardner) against righties?  I'm probably going to stick with Jeter."

The 37 year-old Jeter is thoroughly to focused on getting the Yankees into the playoffs after becoming the 28th player to collect 3,000 hits in the momentous game against the Tampa Bay Rays.   His Saturday night celebration sounded like it was shorter than his 3K trot around the bases.

"I went to sleep," laughed Jeter asked about the after-party.  "Just with family and friends.  I had to play and I don't really recover like I used to."

Jeter has owned the leadoff spot since 1996 and hopes all the attention surrounding the milestone hit and scrutiny about his calf injury is behind him.  Girardi only wants the stability of penciling a single player's name into the leadoff spot.

"I don't want to change the lineup everyday.  It makes it difficult on our players," said Girardi.  "I might have to move around, but right now,  Derek's my leadoff guy."

Jeter is skipping the All-Star game to rest up.  There will be a wait-and-see period to see if Jeter is his old self.

Girardi has realistic expectations.

"Is he hitting .320 like he did in 2009," Girardi wondered aloud.  "No, he's not.  But are you convinced he can't hit .320 in the second half?  That would be my question to everyone."

The Captain said he feels like he's recovered enough from the strained calf which kept him out of pinstripes for three weeks.

"Any time you feel good you want it to continue as long as it can," Jeter said. 

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