Posts Tagged ‘Derek Jeter’

Work with old coach helped Jeter find swing

August 22, 2011 Comments off

By Jordan Schelling /

MINNEAPOLIS — At the time, the right calf strain that sent Derek Jeter to the disabled list on June 14 appeared as though it would simply delay his chase for 3,000 hits by three weeks.Two months later, the time off looks like a blessing in disguise.In addition to getting healthy, Jeter used the time off to work on his swing with instructor Gary Denbo at the Yankees’ training complex in Tampa, Fla.

Before going on the disabled list, Jeter was hitting .260, with a .324 on-base percentage and a .324 slugging percentage. He had only 12 extra-base hits and 23 RBIs through 62 games. Denbo and Jeter worked on staying back on the ball as a potential solution to his struggles.

“You do a lot of tee work, break things down. It’s more of a feel thing,” Jeter said. “Most guys struggle, regardless of who it is, because you’re not staying back. It sounds easy: ‘Why don’t you just stay back?’ It’s not that easy. You try, but you don’t.”

As Jeter’s first pro manager back in 1993, Denbo has nearly 20 years of experience working with Jeter, and he knows the 12-time All-Star’s swing as well, if not better, than anyone in the Yankees organization.

While he may have known what the issue was throughout his early-season struggles, Jeter said having three weeks off made it a lot easier to focus on correcting it.

“Sometimes, you get an opportunity to work on things when you’re not playing in a game,” Jeter said. “It’s difficult when you’re trying to make adjustments in the middle of a game.”

Since coming off the disabled list on July 4, Jeter has batted .339, reaching base at a .392 clip and slugging .461. He has collected more extra-base hits (14) and RBIs (25) over 40 games than he had in the previous 62.

After seeing his average drop to .256 following an 0-for-4 performance in his first game back from the disabled list, Jeter has raised it to .290, with a .350 on-base percentage and a .377 slugging percentage. His numbers are still below his career slash line of .313/.383/.449, but Jeter’s current numbers are all better than they were in 2010.

Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long said that Jeter has just been more comfortable at the plate lately than he was early in the season.

“Since he’s been back, he’s been incredibly consistent,” Long said. “He’s staying back better than he was earlier in the season. His strike-zone discipline has been much, much better. He’s just locked in.

“We talked about it, as far as a guy getting locked in, he hasn’t been locked in all year. And he said, ‘If I can come back and just get locked in for a month or two, my numbers are going to look a lot better.’ And they do.”

While the work Jeter put in while in Tampa looks to have helped, his improved performance also coincides with his reaching 3,000 hits on July 9 at Yankee Stadium.

Jeter went 5-for-5 that day, beginning a run of 36 games during which Jeter has batted .354/.407/.469, with two home runs, two triples, seven doubles and 23 RBIs.

But does Jeter think getting his 3,000th hit out of the way has anything to do with his performance?

“Probably, after I was in Tampa and had a chance to work on some things. I’d probably put some stock in that,” Jeter said. “I don’t think there’s much stock in right after that hit.”

While he may downplay the impact of reaching 3,000 hits, Jeter did admit in July that he felt a lot pressure to get to the mark and to do so at home in front of the New York fans. He sat out the All-Star Game in mid-July to recharge his batteries after the chase.

For a guy like Jeter, who has thrived on the pressure of the postseason — hitting at a .309 clip with an .850 OPS, 20 home runs and 57 RBIs in 147 career playoff games — the pressure of an individual milestone was an altogether different challenge.

“He put pressure on himself to get it done, probably as much pressure as I’ve ever seen him feel,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “I mean, this is a guy that’s always been able to relax in the big situations. But usually, those situations are team situations, and this was an individual thing that he had to talk about every day. I think it kind of played on his mind a little.”

Even with the pressure, Jeter maintained his loose laid-back demeanor throughout the chase. Jeter still cracked jokes and kept the clubhouse loose.

But Long agreed with Girardi’s assessment that Jeter has been more relaxed since his milestone hit.

“I would say that helps,” Long said. “It’s water under the bridge now and something that he’s more relieved is over. Knowing Derek — and knowing how much he cares about the New York Yankees and us winning — that being more of a personal achievement, I know he’s glad that’s over, and he doesn’t have to tackle that anymore.”

Whatever the reason, Jeter’s recent success has been important to the Yankees’ success as a whole, especially with Alex Rodriguez missing the first six weeks after the All-Star break after undergoing knee surgery. Over that stretch, Jeter has batted .336, with an .825 OPS, while playing in all but three games, as the Yankees went 23-13 and moved from 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox to a half-game ahead of Boston.

“It definitely helps, it’s nice to have Derek Jeter swinging the bat the way that he is,” Long said. “It just gives us that much more of an explosive offense. With Alex being out, we scored a lot of runs while he was out, and a big part of that was Jeter stepping up and playing the way he’s capable of playing.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays notebook, 7/4

July 4, 2011 Comments off

Final Vote candidate Zobrist gets a break 

MINNEAPOLIS — On Monday, one day after being named a candidate for the All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint, second baseman Ben Zobrist got a day off to rest.

It was Zobrist’s first day out of the lineup since May 22, and just the third time this season that he has not been on manager Joe Maddon’s lineup card.

“[He has] just a little bit of a head cold kind of thing,” Maddon said. “He could’ve played, but we talked about it and I said, ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea.’ I’ve been looking to give him a day off anyway, so this is almost perfect.”

In 83 games, Zobrist has batted .256 with a .342 on-base percentage and 27 doubles, which ties him with Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for the Major League lead.

As Zobrist rested, third baseman Evan Longoria was back in the lineup after sitting out on Sunday for the first time in nearly a month.

“These guys have been playing every day and doing a good job of it,” Maddon said. “They’ve been grinding it out well, but we’ve got to take care of them at some point. I know the break’s coming up, but I want us to finish strong in the first half, too.”

Maddon pondering post-All-Star break rotation

MINNEAPOLIS — Manager Joe Maddon has thought about the club’s first two games after the All-Star break, but he has yet to settle on who will take the mound against the Red Sox.

It could be All-Stars David Price and James Shields on an extra day of rest each, but Price’s participation in the All-Star Game could alter that plan. Shields will not pitch for the American League, so he remains likely to pitch in one of those games against Boston.

“It could switch up, but we’re still debating a couple of things,” Maddon said. “Shields is good, but [the question is] how David gets utilized.”

Maddon expects to talk with AL manager Ron Washington by the end of the week regarding Price and how Washington plans to use him.

He definitely expects the lefty to see some action against the National League.

Rays poised to witness history

MINNEAPOLIS — On their current road trip, the Rays will face two players — Jim Thome and Derek Jeter — on the verge of reaching major milestones.

As the Rays opened a series against the Twins on Monday, Thome sat just five home runs away from being the eighth player in Major League history to hit 600. And as he rejoined the Yankees on Monday after spending nearly three weeks on the disabled list, Jeter was just six hits shy of becoming the 28th member of the 3,000-hit club.

So the pregame question for manager Joe Maddon was, Which accomplishment is more impressive?

“I’d say probably 600 home runs is more difficult to achieve,” Maddon said. “If you look at the number of 3,000-hit guys, does that exceed the number of 600-home run guys? I’m going to say from that perspective, I think that would be the one way to look at it.

“But both are awesome accomplishments, and [they are] both really deserving, classy individuals. I’ve got a lot of respect for both guys.”

The other question was what Maddon thought about having either milestone come against his ballclub.

Maddon was there on Sept. 6, 1995, when Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game, passing Lou Gehrig for the all-time record. Then the Angels’ bench coach, Maddon saw the Orioles get a boost from Ripken’s accomplishment.

“My biggest concern with that was the momentum, or the energy about the team because of that happening,” he said. “That’s my bigger concern. It’s not the fact that he may get it against us, it’s all the complementary surrounding components that may benefit the Yankees or may benefit the Twins if that were to happen against us.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.