At this time last season, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter attempted to stay positive regarding his health when he began his spring training workouts. Unfortunately, his optimistic nature was not enough to carry him into the regular season remotely healthy.
Jeter only managed to play 17 games in 2013, compiling some of the worst statistics of his storied 19-year career with the Yankees. With just 63 at-bats, the shortstop managed only 12 hits for a batting average of .190—his lowest since his rookie season in 1995.
This year, it's different for Jeter.
There has been plenty of talk about his impending retirement—he will be turning 40 in June. However, it's been all business for the longtime Yankee. During a press conference on Wednesday, Jeter was asked about retiring:
I'm not gone yet, so it's kind of hard to answer that question. You try to play hard, you try to have respect for your team, your teammates, your opponents, fans, reporters—everyone that you come in contact with in your job. You want to be remembered as someone that played hard.
After one more healthy season, that's exactly how Jeter will be remembered.
But for me, I've always said it time and time again, the most sacred thing, the thing that means the most to me is to be remembered as a Yankee. That's what I've always wanted to be is to be a Yankee. And I have to thank the Steinbrenner family that’s here today, and our late owner, The Boss, because they gave me the opportunity to pretty much live my dream my entire life, and the great thing about being a Yankee is you're always a Yankee, so in that sense it never ends. So being a Yankee is good enough for me.
The importance of playing for this franchise is overwhelming for Jeter. He loves the Yankees and his role as a leader of the club. Rest assured, Jeter will do everything possible to remain healthy and go out on a high note.
So far, he is off to a great start.
Jeter spoke with reporters on Thursday about his health heading into spring training:
It felt like every first (day of) spring training—with the exception of last season.
I'm always going to tell you I'm fine. This year, I mean it.
There's no comparison (to last year) whatsoever because I've had four months to basically only strengthen my legs. I can't compare last year and this year.
I wanted to be a little lighter, take some pressure off my legs and move around a little bit better.
Spoken like a true veteran.
Jeter's intelligence shined again during this interview. He took all of the necessary precautions over the offseason to get himself back to form.
Over his long layoff from baseball, Jeter's surgically repaired ankle had plenty of time to heal. Jeter didn't stop there. As he stated in his interview, he spent months strengthening the muscles around his ankle. This persistence gives him great odds of getting through the year without re-injuring himself.
Sure, there has only been one workout to base Jeter's health from. However, there is a clear difference between what we saw last year and what we are seeing now.
It's still uncertain as to how much Jeter will be able to contribute to the Yankees this season. However, even if he is on a pitch count, his health will allow him to flourish no matter how often he sees the field.
Forget about Jeter's retirement—after all, he's not focusing on it. It's all business for the veteran heading into his 20th season with New York. Expect one last year of memorable performances from Jeter before he finally hangs up his cleats.