Sunday, February 20, 2011
Updated: February 21, 11:51 AM ET
Derek Jeter eyes 3,000 hits
By Wallace Matthews
TAMPA, Fla. -- By his own admission, Derek Jeter heard some things he may have preferred not to hear during his unexpectedly contentious contract negotiations this winter.
But when he stepped out onto the field for the first time this spring, he heard the same thing he has been hearing from New York Yankees fans for the past 15 years. Cheers. Applause. And shrieks.
The thousand or so fans who came to George M. Steinbrenner Field Sunday to see the first full-squad workout of the spring erupted when Jeter emerged from the dugout to join his teammates in the outfield for stretching.
Earlier, he had taken questions for about 20 minutes in the media tent outside the visitors clubhouse, and admitted that the talk wasn't always friendly between himself and the team he has played for since 1995 and captained since 2003.
"In a sense, yes," Jeter said when asked if he heard things he did not expect to hear in the negotiations that resulted in a new three-year, $51 million contract that includes a player option for a fourth year. "You're playing baseball and that's what you love to do but there is a business side to things."
Still, Jeter said he would not carry any hard feelings into the upcoming season.
"I've addressed this already; I don't want to keep talking about it," he said. "The way I look at it, it's over with, it's done with, I'm happy. This is where I want to be. This is where I want to play. I've said that from day one and I'm ready to move on. It's over with in my mind."
Jeter's larger concern is proving that his subpar 2010, in which he batted a career-low .270 and posted the worst numbers of his career in many offensive categories, was a fluke. To that end, he has been hitting for the past month at the Yankees' minor league complex across the street and has continued to work on the adjustments to his swing installed late last season by hitting coach Kevin Long.
"Every year I try to forget about the last one, good or bad," Jeter said. "I'm coming off a season I wasn't too happy with but I have to forget about it. You have to come back and make some adjustments and prepare for this season here."
Last August, Long worked with Jeter to shorten his stride in an attempt to minimize ground balls, which Jeter hit an inordinately high number of last year, resulting in too many double plays. The adjustment seemed to work as Jeter hit .287 in September, his second-best month of the season.
"Let's get one thing straight, when we talk about changing my batting stance, I'm not doing anything too drastic," Jeter said. "I got into some bad habits last year and this just puts me in a position to hit a lot earlier."
Jeter downplayed talk about a possible future move to center field, mentioned by general manager Brian Cashman in a recent radio interview, and the prospect of having to relinquish the leadoff spot and move down in the batting order if he gets off to a slow start.
"I don't think you prepare yourself for a negative," he said. "That's just the way I look at things. If you get into a situation where you have to address that, then you address it. But right now, my mindset isn't on what's going to happen if I'm not doing my job. We'll address that when the time comes but I don't think about that."
He also swatted away a question that began with the observation that "most" shortstops at his age -- Jeter will turn 37 on June 26 -- tend to decline.
"You said most, you didn't say every," Jeter said. "So there you go."
Instead, Jeter said he prefers to focus on positives like his pursuit of 3,000 hits, a plateau no Yankee has ever reached and one he is 74 hits shy of.
"I'll try to enjoy it, I guess," he said. "I don't take anything for granted and I'm not just assuming it's going to happen. I've always been one to shy away from anything that was personal because I really didn't like the focus to be on me. But I think it's something that should be appreciated. I'm talking about myself appreciating the journey and to have fun with it. That's what I'm going to try to focus on."
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.