NEW YORK (AP) — Derek Jeter’s final push for 3,000 hits is on hold.
The New York Yankees put their star shortstop on the 15-day disabled list for the first time since 2003 because of a strained right calf, making the move before Tuesday night’s game against the AL champion Texas Rangers.
Jeter limped off the field Monday night against Cleveland, four innings after he got his 2,994th hit.
“I guess the timing wasn’t very good,” Jeter said before the DL move was announced. “It’s a little bit frustrating. But even if I wasn’t at this point, I’d still be frustrated. I don’t like not to play. Whether it’s going for 3,000 hits or 100 hits, I’d rather be out there playing.”
Nearing his 37th birthday, Jeter is known for playing through injuries and is reluctant to take time off. In his 17th season, this is just the fifth trip to the DL for the 11-time All-Star. He was still trying to persuade the team not to make the move hours before the decision was made.
With three games left on this homestand, Jeter and his teammates had hoped he would get the milestone hit at Yankee Stadium before New York heads out on a six-game road trip to play the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.
But there’s still a chance Jeter could get No. 3,000 at home. He’s eligible to come off the DL on June 29, the middle of a three-game series in the Bronx against Milwaukee. More likely he’ll reach the milestone on the road against the crosstown rival Mets or in Cleveland.
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera earned his 500th save against the Mets at Citi Field.
Manager Joe Girardi said earlier Tuesday that Jeter’s pursuit of 3,000 hits would play no part in the DL decision. One thing that did weigh heavily on his mind, though, was how slugging third baseman Alex Rodriguez missed a couple of weeks last year with a calf strain after trying to come back too soon.
“What I don’t want to happen is lose him for a week, play him for a day, then lose him for another two weeks,” Girardi said of Jeter.
The upcoming trip to two National League parks also was a factor. Without the designated hitter, Girardi will likely have to use his bench more often.
Infielder Ramiro Pena was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Despite being Jeter’s primary backup the past two seasons, he lost his roster spot to Eduardo Nunez this year.
Nunez took over after Jeter left the 1-0 loss to Cleveland, and Girardi said he will be given the opportunity to play every day. Nunez is hitting .214 with one homer and seven RBIs in 56 at-bats.
“I think he’s played pretty well for us,” Girardi said. “I think he’s hit the ball a lot harder than what the offensive numbers indicate.”
Also, catcher Russell Martin was not in the lineup for the sixth time in seven games. He’s been nursing a stiff back and was pulled from Monday night’s lineup about an hour before the start. Martin said he could play if needed.
“I only need to feel a little bit better because I don’t feel that bad,” Martin said.
Jeter said his calf had been sore for a couple of days. He said there was discomfort when he ran off the field in the top of the fifth Monday — it felt as if he’d been hit by a pitch. But he knew something was wrong when he jogged down the line after a flyout in the bottom half, ending his night.
“It almost felt like a Charley Horse in my calf. That’s what I thought it was initially, so I tried to stretch it out and get rid of it. It didn’t happen,” Jeter said. “I haven’t done anything to my calf before. ... I just thought it was normal soreness. Evidently, something grabbed.”
Jeter had an MRI that revealed a Grade I sprain, the mildest kind.
“Obviously, if it were up to me I’d rather not (go on the DL),” Jeter said.
Jeter was back in the lineup, bruises and all, the day after diving into the stands for that famous catch that bloodied his face in 2004 against Boston.
But he clearly was in trouble Monday night as soon as he took one step out of the batter’s box in the fifth inning. He went to a hospital after the early exit.
“I haven’t made my living on the disabled list,” Jeter said.