Two hours before the first pitch of the 2011 season, Derek Jeter had no interest in talking about his sub-par 2010.
“Last year is over. That’s the assessment of it,” Jeter said on Thursday morning. “We’ve talked about it enough. I’ve talked about it all spring, all offseason. It’s over with, it’s done with. That’s the good thing about Opening Day … regardless of what happened the previous year, you put an end to it and you focus on the new year.
“Even coming into last season, last time we spoke about 2009 was right before Opening Day. You don’t bring it up again, you forget about it. It’s over with.”
Jeter, as you may have heard, is coming the worst season, statistically, in his 16-year career.
The Yankee shortstop set career lows in batting average (.270), on-base percentage (.340) and slugging percentage (.370).
Jeter and the Yankees went through negotiations that were at times contentious offseason. The end result was a four-year, $56 million contract with an option in the fourth year.
He’ll be making his 16thopening day start on Thursday against Detroit. Beforehand, Jeter called opening days at Yankee Stadium “more special” than others.
“It’s just a new beginning. It’s like that every season. All of us as players get butterflies and get a little nervous going into opening day,” Jeter said. “It’s something we all look forward to but, again, it’s something we want to get behind us and get into the swing of things.”
He opens the season 2,926 hits, 74 hits shy of becoming the first Yankee to reach the 3,000 hit plateau. Jeter insists he won’t be affected by the attention surrounding his pursuit for 3,000.
“I don’t look at it as being a distraction because I’m not trying to do anything differently. You go to the plate, you’re always trying to get a hit,” Jeter said.
He later added that he would try to enjoy the process.
“The closer you get, there’s probably more attention paid to it,” Jeter said. “As of right now it’s nothing to think about.”
The franchise leader in hits will bat in the No. 2 hole on Thursday behind Brett Gardner. Joe Girardi announced on Wednesday that he would bat Gardner in the leadoff spot against right-handers this season. The Yanks face one of the best in the game in Detroit’s Justin Verlander on Thursday afternoon.
“In terms of first and second, I’ve hit second more than I’ve hit first so it really doesn’t make a difference to me,” Jeter said.
There’s been plenty of offseason speculation about Jeter’s ability to bounce back from last season.
The 36-year-old surged at the end of 2010, hitting .342 over the final 19 games after tweaking his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long. The coach and the captain worked on further adjustments this spring, looking in particular to shorten Jeter’s stride.
“It’s a work in progress, I feel pretty good. Anytime you make some changes you always want to get to a point where you’re not thinking about it at all,” Jeter said of the stride. “I still think about it a little bit. I try not to once the game starts. It takes a while to get comfortable but I’m happy with where I am.”
Jeter was also asked on Thursday if he thought about this being one of his final opening days. He laughed off the question.
“I don’t ever sit and have a countdown to an end,” he said. “It’s one year at a time. So I’m going to enjoy today and worry about the next opening day when it comes.”