Yankees soldier on without captain Jeter

Yankees soldier on without captain Jeter
October 14, 2012, 9:46 pm
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NEW YORK -- And on the day after, the Yankees kept playing.

Hours after Derek Jeter, their starting shortstop and longtime captain, saw his season end with a gruesome ankle fracture in the 12th inning of Game 1 of the ALCS, the Yankees had no choice but to go about their business, even as Jeter underwent further tests to determine if surgery was necessary.

Sunday marked the first time since 1995 that Jeter wasn't in the lineup for a Yankees post-season game and the first time since 1981 that both Jeter and Mariano Rivera have been absent from a playoff lineup card.

"It's not a player you want to lose,'' said manager Joe Girardi. "There's no secret to that. He means a lot to this club and we understand that. There are other guys that we have lost during the course of the season that meant a lot to our club and we found a way. That's what we need to do.

"I know you're probably hearing me say it a lot today. But if you want to move on, you have got to find a way. You're still throwing nine guys out there in the lineup that are very capable.''

In the short term, the Yankees activated Eduardo Nunez to take Jeter's spot on the 25-man roster, but Girardi went with Jayson Nix as his choice at shortstop for Game 2.

"I'll just go day-by-day,'' said Girardi, "which I always do. I don't like getting ahead of myself. I don't think there is a lot of value in that. Yet (Nunez) can provide some excitement. Does anyone remember how (Nix) swung the bat in the last series? Pretty darned good. He missed winning one game with a home run, he had a double. I like his at-bats and he's a grinder.

"He's one of the guys that got us here, and that's what I'm doing it.''

As for the batting order, Girardi elevated Ichiro Suzuki from second to leadoff, Jeter's customary spot.

Suzuki hit a two-run homer in the ninth Saturday night to key the Yanks' four-run comeback rally and had three other hits.

"Eventually, I had to move somebody up,'' explained Girardi. "If you lose somebody in the fifth spot, there are only four guys below you. But when you lose the guy in the one spot, you have move everybody up. That's basically what we did.''

As crushing as the loss of Jeter is to the Yankees, it's not their first injury of this magnitude. Early in the season, closer Mariano Rivera went down for the year with a knee injury while shagging fly balls in batting practice in Kansas City.

"We had to move on from a lot of different things this year,'' Girardi said. "We've lost the greatest closer of all-time where people left us for dead . . . And what would Derek say? 'I'm great, let's go.' And that would be his message. We have to find a way. We've done it all year long and we're going to have to do it again.''

Meanwhile, Joe Torre, who managed Jeter to four world championships, said the Yankees must find a way to solider on without him.

"They have to,'' said Torre. "That's the mentality of teams that play in the post-seaosn. This is obviously a setback that good clubs in the post-season have to fight their way back from.''

Torre, who works for Major League Baseball, was on hand Saturday and knew immediately that the injury was serious when Jeter didn't get up off the infield dirt.

"He lays there for a while, and you know it's something more than getting the wind getting knocked out of you,'' said Torre.

He recalled Opening Day 2003 when Jeter suffered a separated shoulder after Toronto catcher Ken Huckabee landed on Jeter at third base. Jeter ended up missing two months.

"I went out there at third base,'' recalled Torre, "and he turned over and said, 'I'll be in there in tomorrow.' I said, 'OK.' It takes a lot for him to be helped off the field.''