For the New York Yankees, the 2012-2013 offseason hasn’t been very kind.
Between the Alex Rodriguez saga continuing and the re-signing of older players, the Yankees don’t look like a fresh team in the hunt for a championship.
Derek Jeter’s injury in the playoffs last season was simply the icing on the cake for the aging team.
Now in 2013, Jeter’s return and continued success against both pitchers and Father Time is vital to New York’s success.
Keeping Jeter healthy and productive this year is of the utmost importance for New York, because without Jeter, it loses the rest of the starting left infield and its leadoff hitter.
Although Jeter isn’t back completely for spring training, he continues to rehab from a broken ankle.
Here are three key factors to Jeter making it through all of 2013.
First things first—that ankle has to heal. Jeter broke and had surgery on the ankle in October, which is around four months ago.
Even though Jeter has said he wants to start on Opening Day, he has to be sure that he is at 100 percent. If Jeter comes back too early and re-injures his ankle, it can sink New York’s season.
Last season manager Joe Girardi already began subscribing to the “R and R” approach while dealing with the aging left side of the infield.
Jeter was the designated hitter 25 times, in order to give his legs a break. Girardi will need to continue this style of putting Jeter at DH.
Although there is no way of knowing if Jeter has another year of hitting above .300 with over 200 hits, his importance to the team hasn’t waned.
To protect both Jeter and the team, Girardi will need to provide solid amounts of rest for the 38-year-old shortstop.
Jayson Nix was a solid utility player for New York in 2012.
Directly connected to extra rest and relaxing for Jeter is his backups and whether they are good enough to eat up innings while Jeter sits.
If Girardi is confident in the guys filling in for Jeter, he’ll be more inclined to rest Jeter (see the pattern?). The more rest Jeter gets when he needs it, the fresher he will be when he is needed most.
As Eduardo Nunez struggled with errors last year, Jayson Nix made his case to be Jeter’s set backup. Last year at shortstop Nix had a .983 fielding percentage, almost 50 points higher than that of Nunez.
No matter who the Yankees pick up or whom Girardi decides to be Jeter’s backup, they must be reliable.
New York’s success will come in big part from Jeter, and if he can’t rest enough during the year because of shaky play from back ups, the Yankees may be in trouble.