Having tested right calf, rehabbing Yankees shortstop may return on Monday
MOOSIC, Pa. -- Just when it looked as if Derek Jeter wouldn't get much of an opportunity on Friday night to test his strained right calf on the basepaths, the Yankees' captain found himself breaking hard for home plate on a wild pitch and sliding in safely just ahead of the throw.
Playing in his second rehab game with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Jeter caught a break in his final plate appearance when Pawtucket first baseman Drew Sutton missed a throw from shortstop Heiker Meneses on what should have been a routine double play. Instead, the ball skipped off Sutton's glove, allowing Jeter to reach safely and advance to second with only one out.
Jeter moved to third one batter later on a groundout to the right side of the infield, setting the stage for his dash to home plate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's 4-1 win.
"I was running fine," said Jeter, who is expected to play one more game with Scranton on Saturday as he continues working his way back from a Grade 1 strain. "I don't ever try to give a percentage -- I don't know how people figure that out -- but I ran. I'm not concerned about running. Everything felt good."
Facing a knuckleballer for the second time in as many nights at a standing-room-only PNC Field, Jeter went hitless in four plate appearances, the last of which came against reliever Brock Huntzinger. Against veteran knuckleball starter Charlie Haeger, Jeter struck out looking in the first, grounded into a double play in the third and worked a walk in the fifth.
Following the two-out walk, Jeter advanced to second on a walk to Dan Johnson, but he was stranded there when Randy Ruiz struck out with the bases loaded to end the frame.
"You're facing a knuckleball, so you just kind of throw everything out the window," Jeter said. "[On Saturday], I'll get the chance to see some normal pitches, which is good. But I feel good. I feel like I'm ready to go."
Currently in the midst of his third rehab stint this year, Jeter missed the entire first half of the season while recovering from offseason surgery on his left ankle. In his July 11 season debut, the shortstop injured his right quad and landed back on the disabled list. He returned on July 28 but played just four games before going back on the DL with the strained calf that has sidelined him since Aug. 3.
Jeter, 39, confirmed that the plan is to play one more rehab game in Scranton on Saturday and, if all goes well, rejoin the big league club for Monday's series opener in Toronto. The Yankees will play an afternoon game against the Rays in St. Petersburg on Sunday.
"You feel more and more comfortable the more you play," Jeter said. "Like I said before, I understand I have to play some games here. I'll play one more [on Saturday], and hopefully, everything is good and I keep getting more comfortable."
Comfortable seemed to be the word of the night for Jeter as he sat at his locker postgame with the troublesome calf wrapped -- and the captain's attitude seemed to fall into that category as well. Jeter often flashed a smile while fielding questions from the media, and he even cracked a joke regarding President Barack Obama.
"Oh yeah, earlier today," Jeter teased before shaking his head when asked if he met up with Obama, who was visiting the Scranton area on Friday. Obama's Air Force One flight could be seen departing the area during the second inning.
Though he had few opportunities to test his calf on the bases on Friday night, Jeter converted a handful of chances in the field. One night after committing an error on one of just two balls hit to him, Jeter successfully fielded a pair of groundouts, caught a hard-hit line drive, recorded a putout at second base on a fielder's-choice groundout and even made a stop on a ball deep up the middle, though he had no play on it.
Jeter also showed good range on his two converted grounders before catching a fifth-inning liner that was hit directly to him. One hitter after recording the putout at second, Jeter ended the second inning by making a stop on a ball hit up the middle and rifling a throw to first base that just beat Pawtucket right fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker. Two innings later, Jeter charged a slow-rolling grounder and made the play to end the fourth inning.
"It's all plays that I've done working out, but it's different when you're doing it in games and have guys actually running," Jeter said. "So it's good to do it in a game situation, but I have worked on it. I try to work on every possible scenario when I'm working out, but game speed, it's a little bit different."
With a pair of hits on Thursday night and plenty of fielding chances to go along with the 90-foot sprint and slide into home on Friday, Jeter said he doesn't have anything specific he wants to accomplish on Saturday in what he hopes will be his final game at Triple-A.
"I don't know if there's really a checklist of things that I have to do," Jeter said. "I'll just come and play another game and hopefully, just keep feeling more and more comfortable. Then we'll go from there."