Yankees Notebook: Jeter running better than ever since return

Derek Jeter made his return Monday night. Credit: Getty Images
Derek Jeter has looked better and better since his return to the team in Toronto.
Credit: Getty Images

Despite scoring nine runs Monday, there was not really an individual performance that stood out for the Yankees. In other words, there was not someone hitting a big home run or having four hits or even driving in more than two runs.

However, if you look beyond the final box score, the day for Derek Jeter was the most noticeable and not just for his two RBI singles.

The more noticeable aspect was how Jeter ran a week after returning from the DL with a calf injury. The running aspect has been something to watch since Jeter has had ankle, quad and calf injuries in this unique year for him.

The combination of injuries has limited him to 46 at-bats entering Tuesday. That is two fewer than what he had in a 15-game cameo during the 1995 season and nine more than he had in an 11-game appearance with Greensboro of the Single-A South Atlantic League three years earlier.

In earlier returns, Jeter has been told to run restrained and to some extent he did Monday, at least once the Yankees were up by nine runs. Before that, there was nothing restrained about him taking an extra base on an error in left field or taking third on a fly ball to right field that required a throw.

“That made me feel pretty good,” manager Joe Girardi said. “And the fact that he got to second on the ball he hit. That made me feel better.”

It’s been an odd sight all year watching five others play shortstop in Jeter’s absence. It’s also been a strange sight watching someone go through what essentially is spring training in the middle of a playoff race.

“It’s been kind of a unique season,” Jeter said. “Now it’s just trying to have some good at-bats and swing at strikes and hopefully get some hits but sometimes you can do your job without getting hits. Sometimes my job is to move guys over and I’ve done that the last couple days. Of course I’d like to get hits every single time, but that doesn’t ever happen. But there’s still other ways to help teams win.”

In the meantime, Jeter will try to block out any thoughts of any injury when he runs the bases or ranges to make a defensive play.

“I don’t really have a choice,” Jeter said. “We only have 20-something games left, so our job is to win as many games as possible, and it’s kind of hard to play games when you’re thinking about not getting hurt.”

Still the Yankees are remaining cautious, which is why Jeter was the designated hitter for the second time in three games.

“I’m trying to make sure that we run him out there almost every day, nothing physical, just trying to run him out there every day,” Girardi said before Tuesday’s game.

Combating fatigue for Kuroda

One of the possible reasons for Hiroki Kuroda allowing opponents to hit .315 last month, his worst such month as a major leaguer, might be fatigue from throwing 171 1/3 innings.

Even if that is actually the case, which is possible, a team in the state the Yankees are in can’t afford not to pitch him unless there is some kind of injury.

They can afford to reduce some of the in-between start routines, which is why Kuroda did not throw his usual bullpen session over the weekend.

“You can back off on some of your work in between starts,” Girardi said. “But it’s not like you can afford not to start him. He got an extra day here and we’re hoping that helps. You can watch his pitch count and we’ve done that all year long and we haven’t extended him because he’s not one of those guys that’s 25 anymore. So we’ve had to watch him but he’s got to go out and pitch for us.”

Even without a bullpen, which a pitcher decides to do, other things such as throwing on flat ground take place.

“It’s a decision usually made by the pitcher, ‘You know what I think I’m going to skip a bullpen,’” Girardi said. “You don’t do it a lot. You don’t do it a number of times in a row but every once in a while you do it. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly the same but sometimes you skip B.P. [batting practice] and those sort of things because you feel like some guys need to save their energy for the game and that’s what he did.”

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.



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