Yankees Notebook: Jeter leaves team, Tigers go closer by committee
Derek Jeter was not with the team Sunday because he was scheduled for further testing after breaking his left ankle. The Yankees were unsure if he would make the trip to Detroit due to the possibility of putting pressure on the ankle while flying.
“[It’s] similar to anyone who breaks his ankle,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You are going to have an MRI to see if there is ligament damage [and] if they need to do more than just cast it. I don’t really have any more information for you except that he said he still feels great.”
Girardi also said that surgery is something that cannot be ruled out. The possibility is among the reasons for Jeter undergoing further testing.
The injury is the latest to befall the Yankees, who have dealt with lengthy injuries to Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez as well as nagging injuries to Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Nick Swisher.
While those injuries are frustrating to talk about and the major ones have created somewhat of a pall around the Yankees, Girardi noticed that the downcast mood even carried over to the media. Like general manager Brian Cashman, Girardi remained steadfast that the Yankees have to find a way like they did in the regular season.
“We’ve lost the greatest closer of all time where people left us for dead,” Girardi said. “People left us for dead in August and September, said we were panicking and we laughed at it and we said no, we’re going to fine. We won more games in the American League than anyone.
“But I think there’s very few athletes in the game that I actually see [the media] down that he is hurt. I don’t know if I have ever seen that. I mean I see people come into my office to do my interviews and they are down. And what would Derek say, ‘I’m great, let’s go.’ That would be his message and we have to find a way. We have done it all year long and we’re going to have to do it again.”
Before Sunday’s game, Girardi remained committed to Jayson Nix. Nix was the first person since Tony Fernandez in 1995 to start a postseason game at shortstop for the Yankees when he went 2-for-3 in Game 4.
The team added Eduardo Nunez to the roster in place of Jeter but barring unforeseen circumstances, he will not see time at short since Nix’s play there was steady while Nunez’s was shaky at best.
“He is one of the guys that got us here,” Girardi said. “That’s why I am doing it.”
Lineup changes again
The injury to Jeter created another day for Girardi to change his lineup, essentially moving some players up one spot.
That meant Ichiro Suzuki led off and was followed by Robinson Cano, who is hitless in his last 22 at-bats. Mark Teixeira returned to hitting third while Raul Ibanez remained as the DH, but this time as the cleanup hitter.
“Eventually I had to move somebody up,” Girardi said. “If you lose somebody in the fifth spot, there are only four guys below you. But when you lose the guy in the one spot, you have to move everybody up.”
Russell Martin was put ahead of sixth-place hitter Alex Rodriguez, but the biggest change was for Nick Swisher. Swisher, who is 3-for-23 this postseason was dropped to eighth behind Curtis Granderson, who has 11 strikeouts while also going 3-for-23.
“We have a bunch of guys that are struggling and there have been guys that have gone up and down during the course of the year. Grandy was a guy that hit a home run off [Anibal Sanchez] the last time and had a couple of hits off him the last time. Swish had a hit, walked, I think he had a strikeout and it is just a gut feeling what to do there.”
Closer by committee in Detroit
Tigers manager Jim Leyland still remains confident in closer Jose Valverde, but in the wee hours Sunday morning he decided that if there was a closing situation in Game 2 that Valverde would not pitch.
The decision was reached after Leyland consulted with general manager Dave Dombrowski and assistant general manager Al Avilla, as well as Valverde. In the hours before the game, pitching coach Jeff Jones spent time working with Valverde to correct some mechanical issues.
“I still consider him the closer, but he will not close the game,” Leyland said. “We’re going to have to make an adjustment and I will not close the game with him today. I have spoken with him and obviously that’s the reason I didn’t have any information for you because I would never make a statement about something like that without talking to the player first. That would be totally disrespectful.”
The main thing the Tigers are hoping Valverde can correct is his delivery. Leyland believes it has been slow and the deliberate style has created a tempo that is causing him to struggle.
Valverde converted 49-of-49 saves last season and two more in the ALDS against the Yankees. This year, he was 35-of-40 in save opportunities and so far in the postseason, he has allowed seven runs and seven hits in two innings.
As for likely candidates, right-handers Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel recorded a save this year, as did ex-Yankee left-hander Phil Coke. The person getting the ball in a possible closing situation will be dictated by matchups.
“I cannot sit here right now and tell you I have a definite closer for the end of the game today,” Leyland said. “I hope I have to close this game out today, but I cannot tell you I have a definite closer for it — one name. I cannot give you one name. I have a suggestion box down by my office.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.