Derek Jeter ran the bases and took some grounders for the first time yesterday at the Yankees' minor league complex.
This means Jeter is closer to returning. The timetable for his return still isn't set though, so it's still unclear as to when his return will happen.
When he does return, the Yankees have to ask themselves two questions: How much playing time should he get, and where should he bat in the lineup?
Those questions aren't as easy to answer as they appear. Yankees fans and especially fans of Derek Jeter want him to go back to playing the same role he did before, and it's hard to argue against that fact. Jeter's pursuit of 3,000 hits also makes it tough to answer those questions.
Since Derek has been on the disabled list, the Yankees have won nine out of 12 games, with Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher doing a fantastic job as the leadoff hitters and Jeter's replacement at shortstop, Eduardo Nunez, is batting .350 in those 12 games. The Yankees have also gone from second place in the American League East to first place by one-and-a-half games over the Boston Red Sox.
I understand that team loyalty to a player that has given all that Jeter has given to the Yankees over his career is hard to move away from. However, team loyalty shouldn't interfere with team winning. After all, the team winning is all what really matters.
In my opinion, when Jeter does finally return, he should be put into a platoon situation with Nunez at shortstop and maybe even with Jorge Posada at designated hitter. This will allow Jeter to slowly return to game shape while having less disruption on the team chemistry and success that has developed in his absence.
I also believe he should bat in the lower third of the lineup. His OBP before the injury was .324 and that's not the OBP you want from a leadoff or number two hitter in any lineup, especially a lineup with the offensive firepower the Yankees have in their number three, four and five hitters.
Yes, this would mean it will take him longer to get the six hits he needs to reach 3,000 for his career. Slowly working him back into the lineup will go a long way to ensuring he is healthy come October and that is where Derek's true greatness generally comes out in force. After all, Jeter getting to 3,000 hits isn't as important as the Yankees winning their 28th World Series championship, right Yankees fans?
What do you think? How should the Yankees handle Derek Jeter when he returns? Please feel free to comment below.