Commentary

Jeter still sets tone for Yankees

The Bombers follow The Captain's lead. And his four hits helped top the Orioles.

Updated: April 10, 2012, 1:42 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

BALTIMORE -- The fearless belief in himself is Derek Jeter's most special trait. When there are doubters all around, Jeter always thinks he can make something good happen. It is probably why he will be the last to know when he is through.

A year ago, it appeared that time was coming on fast. Jeter looked lost as he tried to reinvent himself with a leg kick and a prayer.

With that now abandoned, with a strong 2011 second half behind him and a solid spring training, Jeter did on Monday what he has done so many times since he arrived in 1996.

When there is a little darkness in the Yankee Universe, he leads them out.

On Wednesday, the New York Yankees snapped their 0-for-2012 slump as Jeter went 4-for-4, including an RBI double, in the Yankees' 6-2 win over the Orioles.

"If I'm comfortable, I'm confident the success will be there," Jeter said after the Yankees improved to 1-3.

Either if Jeter is going good or bad he sets the tone in the Yankees' clubhouse. His fearless confidence is combined with an ability to shake off yesterday in favor of today. It is a business-like approach that works when there are 162 regular work days.

Ivan Nova is developing this Jeter quality of confidence. Nova is a long way from being a Yankee legend, but he has the attitude that excels on the big stage. The ability to shake off all that's around him and come through when needed.

Nova vanquished a poor spring and the possibility of maybe being left out of the rotation by delivering the Yankees' first win of the season. He did it with seven innings of two-run, 10-hit, seven-strikeouts, no-walk ball.

When the stakes were highest, Nova gave up only two hits in 12 Baltimore chances with runners in scoring position.

"I don't really think he gets rattled," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For a 25-year-old kid, pitching in this division, I think he is pretty business-like. He is professional about what he needs to do. I don't think he carries things over." For Jeter, even at 0-3, a Monday in April was not like, say, that Wednesday night in October 2000 when Jeter smacked the New York Mets' Game 3 momentum in the face by launching a home run on the first pitch from Bobby Jones in Game 4.

Derek Jeter
Joy R. Absalon/US PresswireDerek Jeter's four hits helped the Yankees get their first win of the season.

On Monday, there was not a trademark moment, but it was classic Jeter. He knocked a leadoff single in the first and later scored the Yankees first run, which allowed Nova to take the mound for the first time all season, already with an advantage.

In the fourth, after the Yankees had put two runs on the board, Jeter flew a perfectly placed double into the right-field corner. It veered away from Nick Markakis and Jeter owned his first RBI of the season. In the eighth, he added another single. He may have had five hits if not for a sacrifice bunt in the sixth.

Meanwhile, Nova hit 96 on the gun, winning a dare from bullpen catcher Roman Rodriguez that he could fire one up that high. "I'm going to show you a couple of 96s," Nova told Rodriguez before first pitch. During the game, Nova noticed the scoreboard, got the ball and signed it. It is the coolness of guy that can deal with the heat of being a Yankee.

In the second, Nova allowed the Orioles to tie the game at one when he failed to get ahead with his fastball on Matt Wieters. After a second ball, Wieters, used the 2-0 count in his favor, and went deep, sending a solo shot over the tall wall in right. It was one of the only mistakes Nova made all night.

Nova, though, doesn't fall apart like his former best buddy, A.J. Burnett, used to at the first sign of trouble. He seems to get stronger.

When Jeter watches young players, he always looks for how they react. Do they let go of what happened in the past and move forward?

"Every time out he is the same," Jeter said of Nova.

To Jeter, this is how you succeed at this game. You don't worry about websites or tweets or back pages. You don't look back.

"Spring training is spring training," Nova said of his training camp that ended with an 8.06 ERA.

It is behind him. And, with Jeter and him leading way, so is the Yankees' 0-3 start.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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