CLEVELAND — Derek Jeter asked nicely and changed his manager’s mind.
The march toward 3,000 hits won’t slow anytime soon.
Four hits shy of the milestone, the Yankees shortstop convinced New York manager Joe Girardi to keep him in the lineup for Wednesday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians. Jeter recently returned after missing three weeks with a calf injury, and Girardi wanted to give the 12-time all-star a day off.
But Jeter, as has always been the case, wanted to play and he talked Girardi into it. It also gives Jeter a chance to move closer toward setting the mark at home — New York opens a four-game series at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night against Tampa Bay that leads into the all-star break.
“I had to ask,” Jeter said before the series finale. “I told him I’m fine and that was pretty much the extent of it. … He just told me what he was thinking and I told him what I was thinking and we came to a decision.”
Girardi left Progressive Field on Tuesday night leaning toward sitting the 37-year-old Jeter for the series finale. But after speaking with trainer Gene Monahan about Jeter’s calf, speaking with him and then sleeping on it, Girardi decided it would be best for Jeter to stay on the field.
“What I realized is, none of us know what it’s like to be pursuing 3,000 hits,” Girardi said. “I started thinking it might be worse if you’re sitting around thinking about it. He swung the bat good last night and physically he feels well. He’s healthy. He’s rested. So why not get him back in there and get this out of the way so we can go about this business in a normal way every day.”
Jeter, who has 2,996 hits, has played in two games since returning from the disabled. He went 0 for 4 in his return Monday, but after he got two hits, including a hard-hit, two-run double, in Tuesday’s win, Girardi said he wanted to rest Jeter for at least one game before next week’s all-star break.
Girardi, though, decided to keep his captain in the lineup to continue his quest to become the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits. In speaking with Jeter, Girardi sensed that the milestone is weighing on his mind.
“He wants to get this done with so he can go on and be Derek Jeter, not Derek Jeter pursuing 3,000 hits,” Girardi said. “That’s the sense I got from him. If I was going for 3,000 hits, I don’t know if I would want a day to think about. I would want to get back out there.
“I really did sleep on it. And, no, I didn’t dream about it.”
Jeter is on deck to become the 28th major leaguer to reach 3,000 hits.
“Yeah, I’d love to do it at home,” he said. “We were at home before I got hurt. Now we’re on the road, I want to get hits today. I can’t think about what’s going to happen when we get back home. I’ll try to get hits today like I do every other day. If I say I want to do it at home now, what’s that saying? I don’t want to get a hit every time up?”
New York fans have been harsh on Jeter in the past two years as his productivity has slipped. But the Yankee faithful would relish the chance to see No. 2 make history at home.
“It would be a wonderful thing for him and the fans if he did it in New York,” said Girardi, Jeter’s teammate for four seasons.
Someone wanted to know what would happen if Jeter began Wednesday’s game 3-for-3, leaving him at 2,999?
Jeter smiled, waved his hand and shook his head without answering.
On Tuesday night, Jeter said some “negativity” had spoiled his chase for 3,000. Now that’s he’s so close, possibly a game away from the record books, he promised to start enjoying it more.
How does he plan to do that?
“I don’t know,” he said, an answer he gave to several questions about his emotions.
Girardi knows the pressure has been tough on Jeter.
“Everything he does, and has done this year has been under a microscope,” he said. “That’s what I can assume he’s talking about. I want him to enjoy this. I want him to take a second and think about what you’ve accomplished. This is not an everyday occurrence. I hope he can do that.”
Indians manager Manny Acta is a big Jeter fan, but not big enough that he wants to witness history against his club.
“He should take an 0-fer today,” Acta joked.
Jeter again acknowledged the chase for 3,000 has been difficult.
“It’s been hard,” he said. “I’ve been gone, you know what I mean? So my focus has not been on 3,000 hits, my focus has been on trying to get back on the field. I’ve only been back for a couple days. You play the first game and it’s like you never played before, trying to get comfortable.
“I was more comfortable yesterday. Hopefully today, a little bit more.”