BOSTON – Derek Jeter stood in foul territory late Friday afternoon at Fenway Park and explained he’d play that night if they’d let him, but they wouldn’t, because a test of his quadriceps showed only minimal healing. So he’d return to the disabled list, where he’d spent all but eight innings this season, and the New York Yankees would go on without him for at least a week longer.
While he spoke, the residue of a rather tame game of catch showed in beads on his upper lip and chin, and he wiped at his face with sweaty hands, so there was more sweat, migratory sweat, smeared sweat, which had nowhere to go.
Jeter is out, and in a few days Alex Rodriguez is expected in, unless the MLB Biogenesis investigation gets him first, which seems overly optimistic, you know, as far as MLB seems to view it. The point is, this is the kind of thing that’s been happening all year, this business of clearing one calamity with another, only to discover they haven’t rid themselves of the first calamity but smeared it into the next.
The Yankees are part moving target, part sitting duck, carried even now by six or seven early weeks few saw coming. They aren’t nearly as overrun as they might appear taken over three dismal hours, primarily because the second wild card is so kind. Still, it’s not as though a July deficit of seven games cues the death knell. Neither is it optimal. At the base of the big green left field wall here, the standings are kept manually. The Boston Red Sox are on top. The only thing keeping the Yankees from the closest view of the warning track is the Toronto Blue Jays. On Friday, the Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles, all ahead of the Yankees in the East, won. The Yankees lost here, 4-2, to begin a 12-game stretch to end the month against the Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
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What seems clear is the Yankees need to add one or two offensive players by the trading deadline, or have their band of April All-Stars start hitting again, or hope for the best from Rodriguez, Jeter and Curtis Granderson when they’ve fully healed. Barring a setback in his recovery from hip surgery or a managerial decision otherwise, Rodriguez will be in the lineup – either at third base or at designated hitter – Monday night in Texas. He’s about as ready as he’s going to be, his allowable minor-league rehabilitation term will have run out and, beyond that, the Yankees – ready? – really need him.
As general manager Brian Cashman, keenly aware Yankees third basemen have been the least productive in the game, said, “Hey, those guys are trying, but…”
On the trade angle, Cashman would appear open to suggestions. He said he duct-taped his phone to his head through the All-Star break and came up with nothing.
“Exhibit A is, name me the bat that’s moved already,” Cashman said. “There isn’t one.”
So they wait, and they make do, and they hope the pitching staff can hold up, and that the aging ballclub has another run left in it. They’ll move this here, and that there, and wherever there’s nobody standing, that’s where Brent Lillibridge will play. Or something. He was promoted Friday, hours after it was announced Jeter’s quadriceps had replaced Jeter’s ankle as the most riveting body part in New York. Well, that and whatever a certain mayoral candidate might tweet out in the coming weeks.
By the middle of Friday night’s game, had Yankees starter Andy Pettitte done a slow turn, he’d have found, among others, Luis Cruz at third, Eduardo Nunez at short, Alberto Gonzalez in left field, another deficit up on the scoreboard, and Lillibridge in right. One reason? Zoilo Almonte sprained an ankle and could not continue in left field. (That area, by the way, was so sun-baked in the triple-digit heat here it resembled the burned out fairways at Muirfield.) Almonte will be on the disabled list by Saturday. In 96 games they’ve played 45 different players.
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The folks who turned up on a muggy night and packed Fenway in anticipation of another epic Red Sox-Yankees tilt would have to settle for Red Sox-Those Guys. Maybe only Pettitte and Robinson Cano were familiar. To confuse the matter more, the Red Sox kindly piped in Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” a thank you to the Yankees and Gotham for their support following the Boston Marathon bombing, this being the Yankees’ first trip to Boston in ‘13.
Mariano Rivera compared the arrival and departure of Jeter – they’d had him for about three hours – to giving a child a toy. Then ripping it out of his hands.
“We still have to fight with what we have,” Rivera said. “We can’t be sitting and waiting for help. We need those guys back. But we have to go with what we have.”
So, this is who they are, like no other Yankees team in going on a generation. Pettitte pitches just OK. Jeter watches from the dugout steps. A-Rod gets the score online. Rivera doesn’t pitch, because there’s no lead. The Yankees lost for the sixth time in nine games, because they have to be near perfect to win, and that didn’t happen again. They’ll try again Saturday, see how that goes.
“You gotta deal with it,” Jeter said. “You gotta move on. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it was kind of odd.”
Then he left to get a towel.