Girardi: Jeter exceeded expectations

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter is the captain of the New York Yankees. He owns more than 3,000 hits. But even his manager didn't expect the 38-year-old Jeter to perform the way he did this year.

Joe Girardi said Jeter's 2012 season is one of the best he ever has witnessed.

"Remarkable," Girardi said when asked to describe Jeter's season after the Yankees clinched the AL East title and the No. 1 seed Wednesday night. "I think exceeding everyone's expectations, his leadership, his ability to play hurt. A guy 38 (years old) is not supposed to get (nearly) 700 plate appearances. It is not supposed to happen, except for maybe a DH.

"And he played shortstop every day and he played hurt. It is truly remarkable. For me, it is one of the greatest seasons I have ever seen, considering all the factors."

Jeter finished with a major league-best 216 hits, 11 more than the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera. In spring training, Girardi planned to try and rest Jeter by using him at designated hitter so he wouldn't wear down. Instead, Jeter ended up starting 132 games at short and playing in 159 games. He finished with a major league-high 683 at-bats.

"The fact that he was able to get so many at-bats and stay out there every day exceeded my expectations," Girardi said. "I talked about I wanted to get him days off and DH him sometimes. But I had to play him more in the field than I probably wanted to because of some of the things we were going through. That's where he exceeded my expectations."

When Eduardo Nunez struggled and was sent back to the minors, the Yankees were left without a true backup shortstop.

Jeter moved into 10th on the all-time hits list during the season, passing Willie Mays. He has 3,304 hits in his career. Next up on the list are No. 9 Eddie Collins (3,313) and No. 8 Paul Molitor (3,319).

Pete Rose is the all-time hits leader with 4,256. After his season at age 38, Rose had 3,372 hits, which is just 68 more than Jeter.

In the champagne-soaked Yankees clubhouse on Wednesday night after their 14-2 win against the Red Sox, Jeter looked ahead more than back, with his eyes on the AL Division Series.

"This is what you play for," Jeter said. "You play for a chance to get to the playoffs, win the division, and now we have to start all over again."