Jeter and Rodriguez Together Again, but Not on the Field

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MIAMI — For close to a decade, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter shared the left side of the infield, offering a contrast of what it meant to be a Yankee. Jeter was the shortstop and captain, always playing with poise. Rodriguez was the third baseman and the expert at creating distractions, intended or not. They were side by side far less often after Jeter’s fractured ankle in the 2012 postseason, followed by Rodriguez’s season-long drug suspension two years later. And by the end of the 2016 season, both were retired.

But this week, with the Yankees playing an interleague series in Miami, they were again sharing the same stage. And once again, they were a study in contrasts.

Jeter, in suit pants and dress shirt, and looking the part of the chief executive that he now is, raptly watched his last-place Marlins from a suite here on Tuesday night while his wife, sitting next to him, tried to stay awake. He found a more compatible baseball companion on Wednesday night — former teammate Tino Martinez joined him. A team spokesman said Jeter, who is now 44, would not be speaking with reporters during the series, though he did do an interview with the Yankees’ YES Network.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez, who is now 43, fought off the exhaustion from accompanying his girlfriend, the actress Jennifer Lopez, to the MTV Music Awards after-parties in Manhattan late Monday night and slipped into a Yankees uniform a day later to fulfill his role as a special adviser to the team.

On Wednesday afternoon, that led to Rodriguez conducting a lengthy pregame workout with third baseman Miguel Andujar, the 23-year-old rookie with the electric bat whose glove is a work in progress.

“It was a blast — a blast!” Rodriguez said as he came off the field and was asked about his tutorial. “If you have a willing student and he’s hungry and he’s humble and he wants to learn, as a teacher … ”

He halted to change course.

“It’s funny,” he continued, bringing up his former manager. “Joe Girardi always told me I was a teacher at heart, because I love to teach.”

The Yankees often seem intent on cornering the market on ex-players turned special advisers — Reggie Jackson, Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher also serve in that role — but Rodriguez’s job is loosely defined. He sometimes encounters the Yankees in his other role as a broadcaster for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball games, and thus will be with them this Sunday evening in Baltimore. Rodriguez also visits with the Yankees in spring training and said he watches every Yankees game on TV.

This spring he spoke with Giancarlo Stanton about the challenges of being a right-handed hitter power hitter at Yankee Stadium.

“It’s always good to talk to the players before you because you get a different perspective, a different era’s perspective, a different type of player’s perspective,” Stanton said when asked about his discussions with Rodriguez. “Sometimes the information isn’t always what you need or good, and sometimes it’s everything you need.”

In Miami, Rodriguez has bounced around the Yankees clubhouse, leaned on the batting cage as he watched batting practice and chit-chatted with Yankee staff members. But he was particularly engaged while working with Andujar.

For as long as the session with Andujar went on, he said, he was nothing more than a self-described baseball nerd eager to share his knowledge about the game, just as others — Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Lou Piniella — had done when he was a young talent with the Seattle Mariners trying to find his way in the major leagues.

And so as one Yankees coach, Reggie Willits, hit grounders to Andujar, and another, Brett Weber, was stationed at first to catch Andujar’s throws, Rodriguez stationed himself — hands on his knees, like a football coach — behind the pitcher’s mound.

Every so often, Rodriguez would mimic footwork for Andujar. In one instance, he asked for Andujar’s Wilson A2000 glove and put it on his own hand to demonstrate a point. Occasionally, Rodriguez offered three claps of encouragement.

Rodriguez said the work session with Andujar was not really about technique.

“God, he’s got so much talent,” Rodriguez said of Andujar, who has good hands and a lively arm. “I would say synchronizing his routine to match it up more with game speed is probably the best way I could say it.’’

To do that, Rodriguez timed Andujar.

A routine practice grounder took 6.5 seconds from the time the ball left Willits’s bat until it hit Weber’s glove. An average right-handed hitter reaches first base in 4.4 seconds, a left-hander in 4.1 seconds. Rodriguez told Andujar that each day when he takes ground balls, he should be at four seconds flat.

“Cutting down the time, from six and a half to four, it’s an easy way to understand what the purpose is behind the workout,” Andujar said through an interpreter. “Long term, it’s going to be something that is going to help me become smoother and faster at the position.’’

The message is not unlike the one Rodriguez delivered last August to Gary Sanchez after Girardi briefly benched the catcher for sloppy defense.

Andujar, like Sanchez two years ago, is a leading candidate for the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award. He went into Wednesday’s game with a .297 average, 36 doubles and 20 home runs. But he also had committed 13 errors, the most on the team, and rated at the bottom of the baseball in defensive metrics for third basemen.

“There’s nothing that he’s doing that physically has to change — that’s the good news,” Rodriguez said. “With him it was just a little bit of the cadence.”

Rodriguez said he was certain that Andujar is a perennial All-Star waiting to happen. But he would not be around for Wednesday night’s game to see how his pupil performed. Instead, when batting practice ended, Rodriguez showered, changed and left to pick up his two daughters. A different sort of education awaited: dancing lessons.

INSIDE PITCH

The Yankees placed closer AROLDIS CHAPMAN on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday after he was forced to leave Tuesday night’s game because of pain in his left knee. Chapman said he is not sure if 10 days will be enough for the discomfort to subside.

Original Article

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