It was easy to see how impressed New York Yankees icon Derek Jeter was with teammate Brendan Ryan on Tuesday night after Ryan made a barehanded grab playing second base against the Detroit Tigers. Jeter is a master of keeping his emotions in check when he wants to, but he was bubbling with approval immediately after Ryan kept a humpback liner by J.D. Martinez from hitting the ground.
Ryan had to leap to get leather on the ball after Martinez made contact leading off the fifth, and the ball slipped out of Ryan's glove and over his head after he jumped. After taking a few hurried steps toward the outfield, Ryan reached with his bare hand and caught the ball, keeping the Tigers off the bases. Nice recovery.
And Jeter loved it:
Ryan is considered one of the best defensive players of his generation — really, he's that good — but for the Yankees he's playing a so-called "easier" position as a backup with Jeter ensconced at shortstop until he retires at the end of the season as planned. How manager Joe Girardi plays both men is understandable, actually, as it pertains to protecting Jeter's image, his ego and his legend. And Ryan isn't much of a hitter. The Yankees obviously feel that, no matter how degraded Jeter's skills are at short, it's still not better for the Yankees if he's playing second base instead — or not at all. Even if it might cost them a victory from time to time.
Ryan's range, hands and instincts make him the best choice for shortstop, all other things being equal. Even though they're not equal. Plays like this, made at second base on a part-time basis, give us a glimpse into what could be at shortstop. Remember that when checking the standings at the end of the season.
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