First Pitch: Cue the Jeter watch

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
7:00
AM ET
Now that we've been through the starting rotation once, it is time to turn our attention to more pressing matters.

As in Derek Jeter.

On Wednesday, Jeter went hitless in two at-bats to drop his spring training average to .125. He has one hit in eight at-bats so far and has hit the ball on the ground in seven of those eight ABs (the other was a strikeout). He couldn't make his patented jump throw on a play that might have saved Hiroki Kuroda a run, and later he booted a routine grounder.

It's a ridiculously small sample, to be sure. But thank goodness this is spring 2012, not spring 2011.

Because had Jeter not rebounded from subpar 2010 season and similarly slow start for the first half of 2011, the chorus would have begun by now: What's wrong with Jeter? Is he washed up?

Jeter, of course, deserved better last year and he certainly has earned better this year because of the way he hit after he returned to the lineup last July following a stint on the DL with a calf injury.

But he is also 37 going on 38, the oldest starting shortstop in baseball, and every time he goes hitless, or makes an error, or just makes the mistake of looking his age on the field, it will start again.

Luckily for Jeter and the Yankees, the captain does not allow such thoughts to put a dent into his self-belief. He refuses to listen to critics, preferring to trust in his own history. He will be great, he believes, because he has always been great.

(In fact, a talk from Jeter to his teammates on the subject of self-belief might have been a more effective motivational tool than having a guy come in and rip a phone book in half.)

Still, you can't expect others to believe in Jeter the way Jeter believes in himself. Forget about spring stats -- they mean nothing -- but if Jeter is struggling by early May, whatever he did in 2011 will fade away and be replaced by a whole new set of questions and a whole new can of doubt.

The question for you to ponder today is, what do you expect to see this year from Jeter? Another season like 2011, when he hit .297 and had a higher on-base percentage than Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano? Or a return to the frustrations of 2010, when it looked to everyone as if Jeter was finally done?

To everyone, of course, but Jeter. Let us know below.

ON-DECK CIRCLE: Yankees clubhouse opens at 8:25 a.m. but the pre-game main event is another live BP session by Mariano Rivera at 9 p.m. Then it's off to Dunedin for a day game against the Blue Jays, with Ivan Nova getting his second start of the spring. This time, he'll go at least three innings. Jeter and Cano, who played two days in a row, will probably have the day off but Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez will make the trip, as will the starting outfield.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.362 0 3 6
OTHER LEADERS
HRC. Beltran 3
RBIC. Beltran 8
RC. Beltran 7
OPSC. Beltran .969
WH. Kuroda 2
ERAM. Tanaka 3.21
SOC. Sabathia 21

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