Derek Jeter returns to New York sitting on 2,997 career hits

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Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter talked his way into the starting lineup Wednesday evening in Cleveland and pushed a step closer to reaching one of baseball’s elite milestones: 3,000 career hits.

Jeter struck out on a tricky fastball from Indians right-hander Justin Masterson to open the game and then flied out to center field in the third inning. In the sixth he drew a walk, his first since returning from a three-week battle with a right calf strain.

The heroics finally arrived in the eighth.

Jeter tallied the 2,997th hit of his career in his final at-bat of the night, ripping a one-out double over the head of Indians right fielder Austin Kearns. He then advanced to third base on a groundout by outfielder Curtis Granderson but was stranded when first baseman Mark Teixeira was retired to end the frame. The Yankees lost to the Indians 5-3.

Jeter heads back to Yankee Stadium on Thursday for the start of a four-game series against the Rays. He’s in prime position to reach hit No. 3,000 in front of the fans who’ve cheered him on through thick and thin over the past 17-plus seasons. It should be quite an atmosphere this weekend in New York.

Jeter is 5-for-9 lifetime against Thursday’s scheduled starter Jeff Niemann, 1-for-2 lifetime against Friday’s starter Jeremy Hellickson, 6-for-25 (.240) against Saturday’s starter David Price and 17-for-54 (.315) against Sunday’s starter James Shields. Of course, small sample sizes such as these mean very little and every one of Jeter’s at-bats is going to be accompanied by postseason-like pressure. Past results matter not.

Yankees acquire A.J. Cole from the Nats

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The New York Yankees have acquired reliever A.J. Cole from the Washington Nationals for cash considerations.

Cole was supposed to be the Nats’ fifth starter this year but that didn’t work out too well. He pitched in four games for the Nats, starting two, to the tune of a 13.06 ERA, having given up six home runs in 10.1 innings. That’s . . . something.

Don’t get too used to Cole on the New York roster, as this seems like one of those “give us an arm” for a couple of days deals, after which Cole will be DFA’d and will either accept an assignment to Scranton or be cut loose. Such is life at the fringes for a guy who is out of minor league options.