Derek Jeter nixes new batting approach

BOSTON -- Eight games into a new season, Derek Jeter's new batting approach was dead. Before the Yankees lost to the Red Sox 4-0 on Sunday night, hitting coach Kevin Long confirmed what your eyes have seen lately -- Jeter had abandoned his stride-less approach.

Jeter went back to the tapping of his front foot approach that he used to become the Yankees' hit leader.

"It is more of what Derek Jeter has done for his whole career, yeah," Long said. "Even from my standpoint, it looks a lot more like what he did in the past. Again, he has had a very successful career and it has worked out well for him."

Jeter entered Sunday night hitting .233 (7-for-30) with no home runs and two RBIs. He had begun using the new approach last September and it had dominated his spring training workouts and news stories about him.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi says it is way too early to judge whether his 36-year-old shortstop's attempt to improve on his subpar 2010 season.

"I think you have to see 100 to 150 at-bats," Girardi said. "But I just don't want to judge it too quick. It's not fair to the player. We know how resilient Derek has been in his career and all the great things that's he's done and I think you have to give him an opportunity."

Long was more willing to assess Jeter's start.

"He is just doing average," Long said. "He is not off to a bad start. He is not off to a good start, but I think he is feeling more and more comfortable and I think he is feeling pretty good about his at-bats."

Coming off the worst offensive season of his career since he became an everyday player in 1996, Jeter has looked off-balance and uncomfortable at the plate at times this season with his new approach.
It involved eliminating his stride in an attempt to shorten and speed up his swing, hopefully eliminating the inordinately high number of ground balls he hit last season.

"He started off doing it and then he said, 'It is hard for me to think about that on every at-bat,'" Long said. "I said, 'You know what, I don't want you to think about it every at-bat so he is kind of tapping and picking up. We'll still monitor to see if he is going in or gets out of whack with what he is doing. For right now, I just want him to be at-ease with his at-bats and going up there and basically competing against the pitcher and not having to worry about his mechanics."

On Saturday, Jeter said he was done -- talking about the change in his batting stance. "I'm not doing anything different really," he said before the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 9-4, and Jeter went 1-for-4.

"I've talked about it enough, to be quite honest with you. I'm not thinking about it, I'm just hitting so I feel pretty good. I'm happy with my at-bats."

Sunday night, Girardi said he understood his captain's position, as well as the continuing interest in the subject.

"This is every day we seem to talk about this and he's got about 27, 28 at-bats," Girardi said. "He's the fifth-leading hitter of our everyday hitters, so we have other guys that we need to get going as well. But his at-bats have been his at-bats. He's gotten some important hits for us. I understand that it's Derek and that's why it's such a hot point, a hot button for everyone. But I just think it's too early to analyze."

Jeter batted second behind Brett Gardner in the lineup Sunday night's lineup against Josh Beckett, his customary spot this season when a right-hander starts, and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He has batted leadoff twice this season against left-handed starters, going 3-for-7 (.429) with a double and two walks in those games. He is batting .173 (4-for-23) in the other six games.

Still, Girardi says he has seen no sign that Jeter is growing impatient with the new approach or plans to abandon it.

"He hasn't spoken openly to me that, 'I'm not gonna do this,' or 'I'm not gonna do that.' And I'm sure against different people he could have different approaches, depending on how they pitch to him. But he's been a great player for a long time. Let's just give him an opportunity to show what he can do."

Jeter has told his hitting coach that the new approach is gone and he will hit like he always has.

"I think it is time to play the game and not think about your swing and the mechanics," Long said. "And kind of see where were are at. I'm kind of with him, we got a lot of games left and lot of baseball left, the most important part is to win games. If he can contribute from the offensive and defensive standpoint, I think that will take his mind off his swing, just a little bit more."

Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews cover the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.