AL BEast Notebook – April 18
Well, Eduardo Nunez, this is your chance.
After breaking his ankle in the playoffs last October, Derek Jeter set his sights on April 1, Opening Day, to return to the field. When that didn’t work the goal was May 1. Now the time for seeing The Captain playing shortstop in pinstripes is way down the road.
A CT scan revealed a small crack in his ankle in the area of his previous injury. It is a new crack. He has been declared out until July, at least. That will be after his 39th birthday. That will be at least nine months after he last played. And that is best case scenario. Early August is more likely.
Eduardo Nunez has been the everyday shortstop in his absence and that will continue to be the case. After struggling defensively for much of his career he has actually been solid with the glove and throwing. He has not hit at all yet, just .240, and Nunez has missed basically five games already from getting hit by a pitch a couple times.
People have said for years that Jeter can’t be an everyday shortstop anymore, and even after he returns that will likely be the case. So here we are at the post-Jeter Yankees. I’ve said that Nunez can be a quality starting shortstop in this league, and this is the time for him to show that.
Nunez won’t be able to replicate Jeter’s 216 hits, but being in the lineup every night will help him be comfortable and get in a better rhythm. He is capable of racking up a .275 average, 10 homers and 15 steals by July 1. For a backup shortstop that should be fine. However, the only other infielder on the team is Jayson Nix, a weak offensive player that was pinch-hit for last weekend even though it caused Cano to move to short and Francisco Cervelli to play second. There’s no additional room for injuries in the infield.
As for Jeter and the Yankees, it’s hard to say what’s left in the tank. This latest injury is probably a result of Jeter pushing himself too hard for Opening Day, so the Yankees are going to take this slowly and carefully. Hard to believe, but Alex Rodriguez could be back before Jeter.
It has been a rough month for AL East shortstops. Along with Derek Jeter’s extended absence, the Blue Jays also have an All-Star (Jose Reyes) that is out for three months with an ankle injury. The Red Sox just got their shortstop Stephen Drew back after a concussion. The Orioles’ J.J. Hardy is batting .193, but that is still a lot higher than Yunel Escobar (.115) for the Rays.