Derek Jeter began taking live batting practice on Monday for the first time this year in preparation for spring training. According to pitcher David Phelps, Jeter certainly looks like he's finally healed and ready to put the lost season of 2013 far behind him.
"Derek looks amazing," Phelps told the New York Daily News. "That's awesome."
Phelps went on to say, "You can tell he's determined to go out there and do well. If you had to place a bet on it, you know he's going to go out there and have a good year. I'm really looking forward to seeing him play again. He's having a lot of fun right now."
"It's great to see," Phelps also said. "Our team, he's been the backbone for so long. He's the only one of the Core Four left going and he means a lot to this organization. We do a lot better when he's in our lineup."
Jeter, for his part, seems to be feeling much better than he did last year. "Everything's good, man, so far, knock on wood," he told the NY Daily News. Instead of trying to recover from a major injury in time for Opening Day, like last offseason, this offseason has been relatively routine. "Everything's normal schedule," Jeter said.
While I may not share Phelps' confidence that Jeter will be back to his old self in 2014 (I'm hopeful, sure, but I'm not about to put money on it), it's great to at least hear some positive news after the disastrous season Jeter just endured. In addition to taking batting practice, Jeter worked out in the field this week, taking grounders at short.
While this is all just talk, it's really great to hear some good news about Jeter. I started following the Yankees in the mid-'90s when Jeter was coming up (and when I was just a wee lad) and it was undeniably strange to watch Yankee games last year without seeing No. 2 manning short. I know I speak for all of us when I say that I hope Jeter looks like his normal self this year.
While he may not perform at his career line of .312/.381/.446 this season, if he can get anywhere close to that, Jeter may just be the best hitter in the infield. And based on the moves (or lack thereof) that the Yankees have made to improve their infield, it seems like Cashman and Levine are certainly counting on Jeter to produce like he used to. With Mark Teixeira (already doubting his wrist), an injury-prone Brian Roberts, and a solid - if unremarkable - Kelly Johnson filling the other infield spots, Jeter's production will be key if the Yankees are going to make it back to October in 2014.