Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jeter’s recovery top baseball story for Yankees

Put aside the salacious revelations of the potential connections of Alex Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli to a Miami clinic suspected of dispensing performance-enhancing drugs. Never mind the feud and subsequent burying of the hatchet between Joba Chamberlain and his new teammate Kevin Youkilis. The most important baseball story so far this spring training by far for the New York Yankees has been the recovery of Derek Jeter.

I can understand why the media is obsessing with the Yankee Captain’s every move on the field. With ARod down for at least half a season, Nick Swisher playing the outfield for the Cleveland Indians and Russell Martin catching his old pal AJ Burnett in Pittsburgh, the Yankees are going to have to squeeze offense out of every position. The Yankees will desperately need Jeter to have a season like he had last year before getting hurt, the kind of season in which he carries the team with his clutch hitting and defense while his teammates struggle mightily, which will no doubt happen again this year. Jeter has to be healthy and he has to be Derek Jeter or the Yankees don’t have a chance in 2013.

But I really worry about his health. I hope Derek learned a valuable lesson about not pushing himself too hard. He admitted he played the last two months of the 2012 regular season and into the playoffs on an injured ankle even though he probably shouldn’t have. Jeter is, in a sense, a hostage to his own toughness because he firmly believes that if a baseball player can walk, he should be out on the field. I’ve long admired his ability to ignore pain and man the shortstop position every day, but I think it leads to too many situations where he plays baseball when he shouldn’t. It finally cost him last October.

Jeter’s rehabilitation has gotten even more attention than Mariano Rivera’s comeback, perhaps because Mo’s injury happened way back in May of last year while the image of Jeter writhing on the ground in unbearable pain is fresh in our minds. Whatever the reason, no one on the Yankees is being watched more closely than Derek Jeter.

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