Derek Jeter Gets Back on the Field - NBC New York

Derek Jeter Gets Back on the Field

Jeter plays shortstop for the first time since breaking his ankle



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    Jeter's back and the Yankees need him as much as ever.

    On the one hand, there's little in the world more comforting than Derek Jeter playing shortstop in a game that sees both Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera on the mound in front of him. 

    On the other, it's a frightening glimpse into the current state of the Yankees. How is it that the same thing can generate such disparate reactions?

    The answer isn't hard to come by. It's comforting because of all the wins and all the rings that the Yankees have attained with that trio playing a leading role, but it is frightening because the three of them started playing together two decades ago. 

    When they started playing together, there was no worry that the three confirmed Yankee icons would break down in the middle of the season and leave the team without enough talent to contend. That's not the case anymore, not when all three of them suffered serious injuries in 2012. 

    Jeter was playing shortstop for the first time this spring and his every shuffle was watched carefully to see if his broken ankle would cause any lingering issues for the captain. The good news is that he didn't have all that much range left to lose at this point in his career, but that could also be spun as bad news given the significance of his position. 

    Pettitte's broken leg came when he got hit with a batted ball, something you can hardly avoid and something that doesn't suggest Pettitte's left arm is breaking down. There's a natural fragility in thoughts about players Pettitte's age, though, and plenty of players have hit a wall when they reach that stage in their careers. 

    And Rivera's every pitch comes fraught with concern that his knee will blow up again the way it did on the warning track in Kansas City last year. It was Rivera's first brush with mortality and he's answered it by saying that this will be his last spin around the big leagues, a decision that makes it impossible to ignore the outsize role he's playing in the final days of his career. 

    Maybe it would feel less scary to have these three in such big roles if the Yankees weren't missing three members of their starting lineup or if they'd spent money on players other than Ben Francisco this offseason, but those are the facts and they aren't changing. There are no sunset days for the trio because there's no way for them to fade away when they are standing front and center. 

    They need to be as good as they've been throughout their careers or this Yankee season is going to lose its way mighty quickly. That's less than ideal, but it is the bed that the Yankees have made for themselves. 

    So be comforted by the familiarity of the names that aren't on the back of the jerseys, but even the discovery of a picture of Dorian Gray in the clubhouse can't take away the scary reality of what it means that they remain essential parts of the Yankee machine. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.