Girardi’s toughest job is keeping Jeter fresh

Memo to Yankees fans: Do not expect to see Derek Jeter in the starting lineup just because you bought a ticket.

That was the message Saturday from manager Joe Girardi, who gave Jeter a day off and started rookie Dean Anna at shortstop, which must have been a disappointment to most people in a sellout crowd of 48,572 at Yankee Stadium for the afternoon game against the Red Sox.

This will be Jeter’s final season in the major leagues, and many a fan will want to get one more look at the Captain in person. But as the manager in charge of the lineup and keeping his players fresh, Girardi feels the need to give his aging shortstop (DJ turns 40 in June) a blow now and then.

“I have to manage him with a focus of winning games and keeping him healthy, not being a farewell tour,” Girardi said before the game. “I wasn’t hired to put on a farewell tour.”

And yet, this is the second consecutive season that Girardi has had to oversee a star player in his final season. Jeter follows Mariano Rivera’s swan song from 2013. But in Mo’s case, fans could never be sure they would see him in a game because of his role as closer. There was no guarantee that Rivera would get into a game whereas the absence of Jeter as a regular position player is more noticeable.

“There is not a whole lot I can do about that,” Girardi said. “When you start running guys out there too much, you risk injury. I think people would be a little bit more upset if he were out two weeks or a month or something like that. I understand that fans want to see him play. I want to see him play. I would like to run him out there 162 times. But I have to do what is best for him and the team.”

Let’s face it; Jeter cannot start every game at his age, and Girardi is taking the correct approach in trying to ensure that the Captain stays healthy enough to start as many games as possible.

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