Derek Jeter said he feels healthy entering his 20th season as a New York Yankee. He also reaffirmed that it will be his last.
“This has nothing to do with how I feel physically,” Jeter, who announced on Facebook last week that he’ll retire at the end of the 2014 season, said at a spring-training news conference in Tampa, Florida. “I feel great and I look forward to playing a full season.”
Jeter, who will turn 40 in June, last year was limited to 17 games because of ankle and leg injuries. He said the ailments gave him time to think about what he wanted his future to look like, and other interests, such as focusing on starting a family, became a priority even though he feels that he has more than one good season left in him.
“When you start coming to the stadium and it’s not fun anymore, and it wasn’t fun because I wasn’t playing, it forced me to start thinking about how long do I want to do this,” Jeter said. “That’s how I came to my decision.”
As for why he didn’t wait until the end of the season to reveal his plans, Jeter said he didn’t want to have to continually address the topic.
“I wanted to make this announcement months ago,” Jeter said, adding that he was convinced by others to take his time. “For me, I think it would have been more of a distraction if I didn’t say anything.”
Several people, including teammates and Yankees’ management, have said they were surprised by the team captain’s plans. Jeter said he didn’t tell many people because he didn’t think it was a secret that could be kept.
“We were all a little taken aback,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said today in a televised interview on YES Network. “I thought he’d evaluate season-to-season as far as whether he would want to continue to play.”
Jeter, a member of five World Series championship teams in New York, has played in 2,602 games and only one where the team was mathematically eliminated. Last season the Yankees missed the playoffs for just the second time in his 19-year career.
He’s the Yankees’ career leader in hits, games played, stolen bases, at-bats and singles, while his 3,316 hits lead all active major leaguers and ranks 10th all-time.
Jeter had just 12 hits last season. Other than his 1995 rookie campaign, when he also had 12 hits while playing 15 games, Jeter has never had fewer than 156. He led the American League in 2012 with 216 hits.
He needs four hits to pass Paul Molitor for ninth on the all-time list. He trails Carl Yastrzemski by 103; Honus Wagner by 104; Cap Anson by 119; and Tris Speaker by 198. Passing Speaker would leave Jeter fifth all-time.
His first media availability since revealing his plans last week came on the day the Yankees began selling 2014 single-game tickets to users of MasterCard, a corporate partner. Tickets to the final game at Yankee Stadium, against the Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 25, appear to have sold out within hours, according to resale market ticket aggregator TiqIQ. Secondary-market prices for games at Yankee Stadium have risen 5.7 percent since Jeter shared his plans.
Girardi said Jeter’s decision won’t affect how he manages the 13-time All-Star, though he will take more time to appreciate his presence.
“You have to be careful knowing that the prize is really at the end of the year,” Girardi said.
Jeter played 159 of 162 games in 2012. Playing in as many games this year would reward most of the people buying tickets in hopes of witnessing his final campaign in Yankee pinstripes.
“I want to play every day,” he said. “Each and every day.”