Ben Shpigel of the New York Times has an excellent, must-read piece about Derek Jeter’s work with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long this week.
Interestingly, Long told Shpigel that Jeter has always has always had a slightly flawed swing, due to the familiar stride that he takes towards the mound with his left leg. Coming off the worst season of his career, Jeter is now willing to make some changes.
“It would have been asinine for me to go in and try to change him before,” Long said. “He’s been so good for so long, what really needed to be done?”
But that stride grew longer and drifted toward the plate, which caused Jeter to lean over. It altered Jeter’s bat path, and his timing suffered.
“Now,” Long said, “he starts to get jammed a little more. Maybe his bat slows down just a hair, but that’s significant. We can say age all we want, but I’m not buying into that. I think if we fix this, that age factor dissipates.”
Long is optimistic that Jeter will find similar results to Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, perhaps the most prominent example of someone who shortened his stride as he got older. Molitor adopted changes and batted .312/.362/.432 over his age 39-41 seasons, retiring with 3,319 hits, ninth all-time.
Sure, there may be some distractions about his Jeter’s contract and the talk of him eventually switching positions, but I’m far more interested to see his new approach at the plate during spring training.
Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.
GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”
Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.
Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.
Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.
The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.