(Long Island, N.Y.) So far, so good. That simple statement has double meaning when it comes to the New York Yankees and their injured captain. Without Derek Jeter, they have been able to tread water and even mired in an offensive slump, the Bronx Bombers are a mere three games back for the division lead after possessing first place for a good portion of time.
The Ducks were knocked down a few times, but not out.
The Boston Red Sox are Baltimore Orioles are ahead of them, but neither are powerhouses, by any stretch. The Sox are one of the league’s biggest surprises so far and it is anyone’s guess how long they can maintain a near-.600 winning percentage. The O’s were a playoff team last year and are playing well again, but are only a game and a half ahead of the Yanks.
So even though some of the injured veterans have started to trickle back, Jeter will not head the ship until after the All-Star break. But the good news is that he is currently at the team’s spring training complex in Tampa and has resumed baseball activities. No, that doesn’t mean he is playing in actual games yet, but you have to start somewhere.
Taking ground balls at shortstop, hitting off a tee and playing a little catch may sound trivial, but the doctors want to be extra careful with Jeter’s left ankle, which he fractured during last season’s playoffs and underwent surgery. Originally trying to come back by Opening Day, the veteran was felled by a second fracture during Spring Training. So it behooves all parties to not rush anything – even running on it yet.
“It was a freak incident, I guess, that caused it to break again” Jeter told reporters, referring to the re-injury. “So I’ll do what I’m told and hopefully there’s no setbacks. I just think that it wasn’t strong enough, so we’ll make sure that (it is).”
When asked if the team’s success during his absence makes it easier for him to show patience, Jeter quickly quipped, “Nope,” and added that he has even less patience about getting back on the field and doing his job.
These are the intangibles that make Jeter the best player in the tri-state area and one that is the most important to his team. Does anyone doubt that the Yankees will take over the top spot in the American League East once he returns sometime in, let’s say…mid-to-late July? Didn’t think so.
His stats may not always show it, but Jeter is the main cog in the Bombers lineup. The team goes as he does and seeing him out there again will be a huge boost on its own. Being within striking distance of a postseason berth before he gets back is all that the Yankees need for now. And they have been doing a fine job of that.
With a solid starting lineup – and an even more potent bench, considering that the second stringers that have been playing well will still be around once the disabled list begins to vacate – and potent pitching, it will be a surprise if the Yankees do not make the playoffs this year.