DETROIT (AP) -- Derek Jeter was all suited up for the New York Yankees and ready to bat cleanup for just the second time in his career.
A steady downpour, though, postponed the game Sunday in Detroit and foiled manager Joe Girardi's plan."He only did it because he knew the game was going to be rained out anyway," Jeter joked.Girardi insisted the forecast didn't have anything to do with slotting Jeter to bat fourth with Hideki Matsui resting against the Tigers' left-handed starter, Nate Robertson, and Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list."I told him I thought of it last night," Girardi said.The idea might have popped into Girardi's mind Saturday night when Jeter hit a home run -- ending a career-long homerless streak to start a season at 128 at-bats -- that helped New York beat Detroit 5-2."He's been waiting for me to do it, otherwise he couldn't justify the move," Jeter joked.In 1,990 regular season and playoff games, the only time Jeter hit fourth was in a loss on the road against the New York Mets on July 10, 1999, when he went 0-for-4 with an intentional walk.The eight-time All-Star has 4,999 at-bats in the regular season and playoffs batting second, nearly 2,000 as a leadoff hitter and 500-plus at third. The only spot he hasn't hit in the lineup is fifth."If there is a runner on second, I'm going to try to hit a groundball to the right side," Jeter said. "It doesn't matter if I'm hitting first, second, fourth or whatever."The Tigers shook up their lineup and roster when they started their homestand last Monday against the Boston Red Sox, cutting left fielder Jacque Jones and replacing him with Gary Sheffield in the field and moving the slugger from third to sixth in the lineup.So far, so good.Sheffield had a .333 batting average in five games last week against Boston and New York, getting on base in half his at-bats and driving in three runs."He's swinging the bat a lot better, gotten some nice RBIs," manager Jim Leyland said. "I don't think he's out of the woods yet, but he looks a lot better. Is that because he's in left field? I don't know. But he looks better."Sheffield was hitting just .185 with five RBIs in the previous 23 games as a DH."I've struggled like this. It's nothing new to me," Sheffield said. "But my track record has always been the same. Regardless of whether I struggle or succeed, I take the same approach and my confidence is never shaken. The only thing that can shake me is my health."Sheffield said his surgically repaired shoulder recently felt good for the first time this season."Last week is probably the first time I should've stepped on a baseball field," he said. "That's when I knew I was right, when I was able to throw to first base from the outfield. I had setbacks from throwing, but that's part of the rehab process."In a bold trade shortly after losing to St. Louis in the 2006 World Series, Detroit gave Sheffield a $28 million contract extension through 2009 and promised him he wouldn't play first base as part of a deal that sent a trio of right-handed prospects to the Yankees.The Tigers' plan included using Sheffield primarily as a designated hitter and it hasn't worked out well for either party.Sheffield is hitting .244 in 143 games as a DH for the Tigers and .357 in 16 games in the outfield for them."I never accepted that I was just a pure DH," Sheffield said. "A DH is a guy that couldn't do anything else. And, I'm not that."Sheffield also said his lackluster power this season -- two homers in 96 at-bats -- has nothing to do with closing in on his 500th home run as Leyland has suggested was a possible distraction at the plate."I don't really focus on numbers," said Sheffield, who has hit 482 homers. "I'm kind of a rebellious person, anyway. If it wasn't a big deal to everybody else, I would probably want to do it more."
Rodriguez (strained right quadriceps) worked out for third straight day Sunday at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa. He took 60 swings in batting practice and fielded 38 grounders at 3B. Rodriguez is scheduled for an MRI on Monday, when he might get cleared for rehab games later this week. "He had another good day," Girardi said. "He's eligible Thursday, but I'm not saying that is likely or unlikely at this point. We're still optimistic, but we aren't going to start making those kind of plans until after the MRI on Monday. Once we see that, we'll have a better idea of what we might do." ... The Yankees plan to use Sunday's starter, LHP Andy Pettitte, on Monday night at Tampa Bay and to push back the next two starters, RHP Chien-Ming Wang and RHP Mike Mussina, to Tuesday and Wednesday. They are unsure who will start Thursday against the Rays. ... After an off day, Detroit plans to use Sunday's starter, LHP Nate Robertson, on Tuesday night at Kansas City and to push back RHP Justin Verlander, LHP Kenny Rogers and RHP Jeremy Bonderman a day beyond their previously scheduled start.