Derek Jeter was back in action on a baseball field for the first time since leaving a game against the Boston Red Sox in Yankee Stadium last September 7. The New York Yankees captain hit a ball off a stationary tee and took 108 ground balls at the Yankees minor league facility in Tampa, Florida on Monday.
Jeter stood on the grass while fielding the ground balls, not yet venturing onto the hard infield dirt. That’s understandable, given that it was a twice-broken ankle that kept Derek Jeter out of action for all but a few games since he first broke the bone during the 2012 American League Championship Series.
The Yankees went on to lose that series to the Detroit Tigers, who in turn lost that year’s World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.
In 2013, absent Jeter for effectively the entire season, the Yankees missed the playoffs altogether, finishing fourth in the American League East Division and winning just 85 games — the Yankees’ lowest number of wins in a non-strike-shortened season since 1992.
But Jeter told reporters after his light workout Monday that he now feels “normal” again.
“It’s good to have a normal offseason and get some work in,” Jeter said, quoted by Fox Sports. “Everything is normal now.”
But will Derek Jeter, who is not only coming off a series of debilitating injuries but turns 40 on June 26, give the Yankees enough production to justify his $12 million paycheck for 2014. He wasn’t worth $17 million last year, when he was paid what amounts to $1 million for every game in which he took the field while compiling just 12 hits in 63 official at-bats — a dismal.190 batting average.
Some Yankee watchers — such as Sports Illustrated‘s Cliff Corcoran — speculate that with his age, injures and potential drop-off in production, the single-year deal could mark the end of Derek Jeter’s baseball career.
On the other hand, if Derek Jeter can snap back to his 2012 levels of production, when he put together a.316 batting average and.368 on-base percentage, leading the American League in hits with 216, having Jeter around in 2014 could be worth the Yankees’ latest investment in him.
If 2014 does mark the final bow for Derek Jeter, he will not be retiring a pauper by any means. According to numbers compiled by the Baseball Reference web site, Derek Jeter has collected more than $253 million in salary and bonuses alone during the 19-year span of his Yankee career.
After spending the 2012-2013 offseason rehabilitating the injured ankle, Derek Jeter broke it again after just 11 at-bats in the 2013 season, The New York Times recounted. He returned to the Yankees’ lineup on July 11, but then Jeter felt pain in his right quadriceps muscle.
He was out again until July 28, played three games, then strained his right calf.
His longest stretch of remaining in the Yankee lineup came between August 26 and September 7 when his season ended for good.
But Jeter says the 2013 nightmare is behind him.
“I don’t think about it, and that’s a good thing,” Derek Jeter now claims.