Derek Jeter is already working on hitting mechanics with Kevin Long

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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.

Johnny Cueto expected to opt-out of his deal after the season

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Johnny Cueto signed a six-year $130 million deal with the Giants prior to the 2016 season. In his first season he went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 219.2 innings, helping lead the Giants to the playoffs. This season has been rocky for Cueto — he’s got a a 4.42 ERA in 15 starts and has battled blisters — but they’ve been far rockier for the Giants overall, as they sit in last place in the NL West and have the second worst record in baseball.

Many suspect that the Giants will either rebuild or, at the very least, restructure some in response to this nightmare year. If so, they’re likely going to be doing it with Cueto, who Jon Heyman reports is going to opt-out of his deal:

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is planning to opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but he would listen to any extension offer . . . Cueto has $84 million to go over four years. It would probably take an injury or major slump for Cueto not to opt out. But it makes sense that he will.

Heyman says the Giants are not inclined to give him an extension, so expect to see Cueto on the free agent market three days after the World Series ends, which is the deadline for him to exercise his opt-out rights.

The Dodgers are concerned about Julio Urias’ shoulder

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Things are going great for the Dodgers lately. They’ve won seven consecutive games and 13 of their last 14. They lead the National League in wins and are in first place in, arguably, the best division in baseball.

But there are a lot of moving parts on a baseball team, and even when some things are going great, other things can go not-so-great. Like this:

Urias has been diagnosed with shoulder inflammation and shut down indefinitely. An MRI last week showed no structural damage, but his shoulder is still bothering him. He has not pitched in the bigs since late May, when he allowed seven runs in less than three innings against the Miami Marlins. He was sent down after that and went 3-0 with a 3.12 ERA, six walks and 17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched in three starts with Oklahoma City before being shelved.