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Jeter not ready to say farewell

SEATTLE -- Derek Jeter hates the term "Farewell Tour." He isn't all that comfortable with pregame ceremonies, or receiving gifts from opposing teams, or having to answer the same questions from a new group of writers at every stop the Yankees make this season.

But what Jeter really hates is losing, especially when he feels as though he's not doing anything to prevent it.

That is why Jeter was part of a small group of Yankees taking early batting practice on the field at Safeco Tuesday afternoon, going through the drudgery of swinging at a coach's soft tosses some three hours before he would have to face the real thing.

"I always feel that anytime you scuffle to score you got to do a lot of the little things, and a lot of the little things is my job," he had said before the Yankees went out to play the Seattle Mariners in the first game of a three-game series Tuesday night. "So I got to pick it up, we need to pick it up. And hopefully we can start on that tonight."

Hours later, after the Yankees had rallied to regain a one-run lead in the eighth inning, and then clung to it long enough to come away with a 3-2 win, Jeter had nothing more to say. His parents were in town, and he left the clubhouse early to have dinner with them.

But really, he already had let his bat do his talking for him, with a bouncer up the middle in the first inning that became the Yankees' first run of the night, when Carlos Beltran doubled him home, and a ringing ground-rule double in the eighth that became the game winner after Jacoby Ellsbury lined a two-strike single to bring him around again.

As Joe Girardi pointed out, there was nothing little about those things, and maybe, nothing insignificant about this win.

"Those are two big hits because we had an opportunity and whenever you get two-out hits, it just picks up the spirit of the club," Girardi said. "Hopefully this gets us on a roll here."

If you've been paying attention, you know the Yankees offense has been miserable for most of the season. And with the exception of the first inning, when they strung together four hits off Hisashi Iwakuma for their biggest first inning in nearly three weeks -- they scored three first-inning runs May 23 and a total of two first-inning runs in the 15 games since -- it was mostly miserable again Tuesday night.

The difference, of course, was a couple of timely hits -- the Yankees were a misleading 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position -- and, of course, the fact that there were runners in scoring position when those hits finally came.

And the biggest reason those hits became timely was because of Jeter, whose job it is to put himself in a position to score when guys like Beltran and Ellsbury come to the plate.

He hadn't been doing much of that recently -- his average was down to .254 at the start of the game -- and the opinion that he should soon be dropped from the No. 2 spot in the Yankees batting order was rapidly gaining momentum among fans and talk-radio blowhards.

Girardi did his best to defuse such talk before the game, but even he couldn't rouse himself to deliver much of a defense.

“He’s always been a guy that has responded during the course of time," Girardi said. "People have been ready to say that you should move him, and one year he ended up with 200-plus hits. You can look at Derek in the No. 2 spot, but we’ve had a lot of guys who have struggled. Maybe because of his name, he’s going to be the focus a little bit, sometimes maybe more than other guys, but we’ve had a lot of guys struggle.”

After the game, Girardi's faith in Jeter appeared as if it might be justified once again. Jeter's first hit was nothing much, just a bouncer with eyes, but his second was a rope into the distant left-center gap that hit the warning track and bounced into the seats, and a good thing, too, because Jeter apparently missed first base on his way to second. That treated all of us to the rather bizarre sight of the Yankees captain having to double back to touch first base before returning to second.

But no matter, because Jeter had done his job, which was to get into scoring position. "Anytime you can start rallies, those are big things," Girardi said. "You get yourself in scoring position with less than two outs, those are big things, and he was able to do that."

Jeter's pride is legendary. And there can be no doubt that the Yankees' early struggles, as well as his own, are eating away at him as his final season moves swiftly toward its second half. He was atypically short with the Seattle media before the game, notably when the subject of his final season came up, and especially when an unsuspecting reporter uttered the forbidden phrase "Farewell Tour." But his irritation was most obvious when he was asked if he was having any second thoughts about retirement, especially in light of how poorly the Yankees were playing.

"No," he said, practically biting off the word and spitting it out. "Because I made my decision. I didn’t just wake up one morning and make my decision. A lot of thought went into it. But I’m trying not to think about it. We have a season to play."

He also batted aside a question concerning Mariano Rivera's "Farewell Tour" -- there's that phrase again -- with uncharacteristic sharpness.

"I was not here," Jeter said, referring to his missing 145 games last year with injuries arising from the broken ankle he suffered in the 2012 postseason. "So I missed Mo going through it, and it’s completely different. Mo plays in what, 40, 50 games a year? I play every day, so I have a job to do. Mo comes in in the ninth inning. I got to be ready to go from the first inning. There’s no comparison."

Jeter went along with the brief pregame ceremony in which he was presented with a seat from the Kingdome, where he got his first major league hit in 1995, a commemorative base from his final series here in Seattle, a check for his foundation and a watch, a personal gift from Robinson Cano, his friend and ex-teammate.

But as always, you could tell he couldn't wait for the ceremony to be over and the game to begin. As he said, he has a job to do, and collecting retirement gifts is not really part of it.

"We’ve been inconsistent. There’s been some highs, there’s been some lows," he said of the first 63 games of his final season. "It’s not the first time that I’ve scuffled. It’s not the first time that the team’s scuffled. If it was easy, no one would ever scuffle. All you can do is keep battling and try to improve. You just hope that when things aren’t going as well as you’d like it doesn’t last long, and when things are going good you want it to last forever."

Derek Jeter knows his final season is not going to last forever. In fact, it now has less than 100 games to run.

But he's not ready to say farewell, and Tuesday night, he went out and proved it.

Beltran hits. Throwing next: Beltran delivered two hits, including an RBI single Tuesday night, but so far has been limited to DH duty since he came off the disabled list last Thursday. But that could change after he starts a throwing program Wednesday, throwing for the first time since he went on the DL with a painful bone spur in his right elbow.

"I still feel a little pain, but it’s something that I have to deal with, so right now I’m not really thinking about it," Beltran said. "[Throwing] is my first real test, but I’m just trying to don’t focus on that and just focus on what is important and just find the stroke and be out there in the lineup.''

Beltran had two cortisone shots in the elbow but admitted the pain has never completely left the elbow, and when he throws, he will wear a brace that will prevent him from hyper-extending the elbow.

"Now it's just a question of how long the cortisone shot will last," he said.

Ellsbury streaking: Ellsbury's RBI single extended his hitting streak to 14 games. More important, he said he felt as if his hit, and this victory, could spark the Yankees to begin playing the way they were expected to when he signed on as a free agent in the winter.

“I feel like this type of game has been eluding us a little bit," Ellsbury said. "If we can win these type of games, we're going to be in great shape. It's always nice to go out there and throw a bunch of runs up there, make it easy on the pitching staff. We have very good hitters, so it's just a matter of time before it really starts clicking.”