ORLANDO, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hal Steinbrenner is concerned about Derek Jeter’s recovery from a broken ankle but is confident the New York Yankees captain will return to his form prior to the injury 13 months ago.
Jeter broke his left ankle on Oct. 13, 2012, during the AL championship series opener against Detroit. He didn’t return until July 11 and wound up on the disabled list three more times because of quadriceps and calf injuries and what appeared to be ankle pain. He appeared in only 13 games at shortstop and four at designated hitter, and he’ll turn 40 next June.
“Given his age and given the severity of the injury, I think we all have concerns,” Steinbrenner, the team’s managing general partner, said Tuesday night after arriving for Major League Baseball meetings. “But if anybody is going to succeed, it’s going to be Derek. Nobody is tougher, and nobody is going to work harder to get back.
“But given his age and given what the injury was – you know, it’s not a Grade 1 quad strain, this is a fairly serious injury. So are there concerns? Yes. But we’re also confident that he’s going to come back to be the player he was a couple years ago.”
New York and the 13-time All-Star shortstop agreed Nov. 3 to a $12 million, one-year contract, a deal worth $2.5 million more than the player option pending from his previous contract.
“Given what Derek has meant to the organization and means to the organization, all I’m going to say is both sides needed to be comfortable with a number,” Steinbrenner said. “We needed to come up with a number that both sides thought was fair, and that’s what we did.”
In the talks leading to the agreement, the sides never discussed beyond 2014.
“I don’t know that Derek has thought that far,” Steinbrenner said. “He’s got a lot of thinking to do just getting to March, you know what I mean? And I think that’s his focus right now.”
New York also is uncertain about its third baseman. Alex Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games by MLB on Aug. 5 for alleged violations of its drug agreement and labor contract, and the players’ association filed a grievance to overturn the penalty. Hearings resume next week, and arbitrator Fredric Horowitz may not rule until January.
“Right now, we’re assuming Alex is going to be our starting third baseman,” Steinbrenner said. “Time will tell.”
Steinbrenner has not spoken with A-Rod since before the player went to Triple-A Scranton for a minor league rehab assignment last summer.
In addition to the grievance, Rodriguez filed separate lawsuits against MLB and Yankees team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad, claiming his hip injury wasn’t properly diagnosed. Steinbrenner said Ahmad would “absolutely” treat Rodriguez if there’s an injury “as far as I know.”
“Anybody can get a second opinion,” he added. “Most of them do.”
Rodriguez has a $25 million salary next year and could earn an additional $6 million payment if he hits six home runs and ties Willie Mays at 660. Steinbrenner isn’t concerned about the uncertainty.
“Even with Alex as our third baseman, we’ve got a fair amount of money to start spending to try to fill the holes, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “We all worry, but I try not to worry about things I can’t control, and I can’t control that process.”
Steinbrenner expects talks will resume in the next week with second baseman Robinson Cano, who became a free agent and has sought a 10-year deal in excess of $300 million.
“We haven’t really had any communications regarding any specifics yet,” he said.
Steinbrenner reiterated that getting under the $189 million luxury tax threshold was a goal, but not at the expense of fielding a championship-caliber team.
“We’ll have to see,” he said. “This is not as strong of a free agent market as in past years, so prices may be higher. … We’re just going to have to start fixing the problems, we have to start filling the holes one by one and we’ll cross each bridge as we get to it.”
New York also is interested in pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who went a 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during the regular season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League. The 25-year-old right-hander may become available if MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball agree to a new deal to replace the expired posting system for bidding by big league teams.
“We certainly like him. He’s a great player, without a doubt,” Steinbrenner said. “I’m sure there will be numerous teams in on him. He’d be a great, great catch for anybody.”
Steinbrenner also said the Yankees had made changes to their player development system without altering the top officials. Jody Reed has been hired as a roving minor league instructor, a task also given to Gil Patterson. There will be changes in the way scouts work.
“It’s really easy to say, `Get rid of this guy. Get rid of this guy. And get rid of that guy.’ And there are certainly some owners that might do that,” said Steinbrenner, whose father, George, acted that way for much of his tenure as owner.
“But that doesn’t always solve the problem. Sometimes it’s procedural or process, the way scouts influence each other because they’re talking too much to each other – somebody has a preconception about a player they haven’t even seen yet because they’ve talked to two scouts about them and they go in to go see the player with those preconceptions,” he said. “So those are the kind of things we’re working on, communication. We’re teaching the scouts. We’re going to teach them to look for different things, maybe things they haven’t looked at before.”
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