Derek Jeter announced during spring training that he would retire after this season there was plenty of speculation about how he would be handled in terms of appearances. How often would he sit? When would he slot in as the designated hitter? The plan was never fully executed due to the injury of Brendan Ryan.
Ryan, the sure-handed and slick fielding shortstop, has been on the disabled list since the end of spring training recuperating from a back injury. Ryan is set to be activated Tuesday according to MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, and it might come at the perfect time for Jeter and the Yankees.
The narrative over the last several games was how Jeter looks “old” at the plate. After suffering through a 0-for-14 slump, Jeter rapped two hits in Monday’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels, to break the skid. Prior to the longer 3-for-28 slide, Jeter “looked young” his average sitting at .294 (April 25).
So which is it?
There is no doubt that Jeter could use more rest. He’s got to be able to spend at least two full days off the field in my view; one completely on the bench and the other as the DH. With the roster being short a player due to Michael Pineda’s suspension that Yankees have not had this luxury.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has a difficult task ahead of him for the rest of the season. He surely wants to accommodate Jeter and get him in as many games as possible. But he also has to steer this team into winning games. If resting Jeter twice every seven games helps him be that much more productive in the other five, I think it’s a no-brainer.
With Ryan back in the fold, Girardi has the chance to do this. He can completely rest Jeter on days against a tough right-hander (Jeter is hitting .211 against righties and .302 versus lefties) and DH Jeter in day after night games. There are other players in the mix for DH time, so there is even the potential of Jeter fully sitting two out of seven games if tough matchups exist.
Further, when the Yankees are ahead by a bunch of runs or behind in the same fashion, Ryan can soak up a couple of innings on the field. Jeter still gets three/four at-bats and resting those couple innings every so often will provide some relief.
Additionally, Ryan provides a major step up in the field. Jeter currently holds a -3.6 UZR-150 rating. Ryan owns a career 11.7 UZR-150 mark in the metric at shortstop. This could benefit the Yankees when a groundball pitcher is on the mound; CC Sabathia has a 1.97 GB/FB ratio this season and Masahiro Tanaka sits at 1.67. Ryan could also spell Jeter in crucial late-inning situations which could give the captain even more rest. Ryan’s bat is nothing to write home about, but he is adequate enough and his defense makes up the difference.
Look, Jeter is not going to ask for this. He’ll play as hard as possible right through Game-162 and potentially into the playoffs. He’ll continue to tell everyone, including Girardi, he’s 'good to go' even when he’s a bit sluggish. But, the reality is as Jeter turns 40 there’s only so much he can endure and the more he tries to brush it aside the more it could hurt the club. Jeter will be better off with more rest and in the end so will the Yankees.
Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.