Yankees soldier on without captain Jeter

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Yankees soldier on without captain Jeter

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.''

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.