As Derek Jeter dug in against Andy Pettitte, a familiar voice boomed from the top step of the dugout.
“Hundred bucks if you drill him!” former teammate David Wells hollered.
The way things are going lately for the New York Yankees, it’s a surprise some mishap didn’t occur. Instead, Jeter batted six times — without incident — during Pettitte’s simulated outing Friday at the team’s spring training complex in Tampa, Fla.
Already missing Alex Rodriguez when they came to camp, the Yankees have been struck by a startling series of injuries since arriving.
They’ve been hit so hard, it’s no wonder their 3-10 record in exhibition play is the worst in the American League.
Curtis Granderson broke his arm in his first exhibition at-bat and is out until May. Fellow All-Star Mark Teixeira also is sidelined until May after straining his right wrist swinging a weighted bat during warmups for the World Baseball Classic.
“Those are two guys you can’t replace. I mean, let’s get serious,” outfielder Brett Gardner said.
Reliever David Robertson has a sore shoulder, the result of sleeping on it wrong. And the topper seemed to come when general manager Brian Cashman broke his leg while skydiving in Florida.
“That just confirms that I will never jump out of an airplane,” Jeter said. “It’s a freak thing, man. That’s scary. I have a scooter and a wheelchair if he wants to use it.”
The offer might stand for the rest of the AL East champs, too.
“It’s crazy,” ace CC Sabathia said. “It’s been a tough spring so far, but we’ll just have to try to hold the fort down until both (Teixeira) and Curt are able to get back on the field, get healthy. It’s going to be a tough, first couple weeks without them, but we’ll get through it.”
“I guess there’s a lot more stuff that can go wrong, but geez, Curt getting hurt, and Tex getting hurt swinging a bat in the cage. It’s just crazy.”
The 38-year-old Jeter still hasn’t played in a spring game while rehabbing from his broken ankle in the AL championship series sweep by Detroit. The 40-year-old Pettitte was hobbled for nearly three months last season due to a broken leg.
And the Yankees’ longtime savior, 43-year-old closer Mariano Rivera, is expected to announce Saturday that this will be his last season. He missed most of last year after tearing up his knee.
Not a lot of wiggle room for manager Joe Girardi’s bunch as opening day approaches, on April 1 at Yankee Stadium against the revamped Boston Red Sox.
“A lot of times, you look at injuries, you never want to see them. But I’ll take an injury now going into the season rather than later in the season,” newcomer Kevin Youkilis said.
“The good thing is, you don’t win or lose a season in April. You win or lose seasons in September. For me personally, there’s been teams that are in first place every year in April and a lot of times they never make it all the way through,” he said.
Normally one of baseball’s biggest offseason players, the Yankees had a real quiet winter while trying to keep their payroll at about $200 million. Rather, they watched their roster take quite a few hits.
Rafael Soriano, who posted 42 saves while filling in for Rivera, signed with Washington. Postseason star Raul Ibanez left, as did starting catcher Russell Martin, popular right fielder Nick Swisher and valuable Eric Chavez.
For a team that often relies on power, that’s quite an outage when coupled with the injuries to Rodriguez, Granderson and Teixeira. Put it this way: Of the 10 players who reached double-digits in home runs last season, only Robinson Cano and Jeter will be on the opening-day roster.
“There’s many ways of scoring runs,” outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, still fleet at 39, said through a translator. “Those home runs might be less this year. You have to become a team that can score in many different ways.”
A big step forward would be a complete recovery by Jeter. The surgeon who repaired his ankle gave the star shortstop full clearance this week to resume all activity.
“It’s always reassuring when someone says that something is not broken anymore. So, it’s just getting through the normal aches and pains that come around it,” Jeter said.
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