Mariano Rivera won’t be the only Yankees’ legend returning to action today. After receiving “final clearance” on his surgically-repaired ankle earlier this week, Derek Jeter will make his Grapefruit League debut this afternoon against the Braves. He’ll serve as the designated hitter and bat leadoff.
Jeter hasn’t encountered any setbacks since surgery last October to repair a fractured left ankle suffered during the ALCS. The Yankees will likely wait a little while before testing him at shortstop in a live game, but he’s expected to be ready for Opening Day on April 1 against the Red Sox.
Jeter, who turns 39 in June, batted .316/.362/.429 last season and led the majors in hits.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.