Derek Jeter four hits away from 3,000

Updated: July 6, 2011, 1:34 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

CLEVELAND -- All season long, New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter has said he would not consider himself "close" to 3,000 hits until he was within the number of hits he could get in one game.

Well, consider him close now.

With an infield single leading off the game and a two-run double into the left-center gap in the second inning of Tuesday's game between the Yankees and Indians, Jeter now has 2,996 career hits.

"Yeah, I guess it is (close) now," Jeter said after the Yankees won 9-2. "Today I really wasn't thinking about it, honestly. I was just trying to have good at-bats. But maybe tomorrow when I get here it might feel that way."

Since he has had four hits in a game twice already this season -- most recently on May 8 against the Texas Rangers in a game in which he hit his only two home runs of the season -- Jeter is in a position to reach the milestone literally any day now.

But it doesn't seem likely he'll get the chance to add to that total on Wednesday. Said manager Joe Girardi, "I think he needs to have a day. He's played four games in a row now, and we have four more coming up. He's probably going to say no, but that's my personal opinion."

Girardi plans to "sleep on it" before announcing his plans.

Jeter, who tried to talk Girardi out of putting him on the disabled list when he strained his calf on June 13, will almost certainly try to talk his way into the lineup.

"I feel fine to play (Wednesday)," he said. "It's hard for me to sit anyway, and I've sat for the past three weeks. So yup, I'd like to play."

Girardi said he has not gotten any pressure to keep Jeter out until the team gets to New York, so he can get his 3,000th hit at Yankee Stadium.

"No one has ever said a word to me about where he should do it," Girardi said.

Jeter, who was activated Monday after 21 days on the disabled list with a right calf strain, beat out a dribbler to third base leading off the game, and then smoked a fastball from Carlos Carrasco with two runners on, both of whom scored, in the second to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.

"I felt better today," he said, having gone 0-for-4 in his first game back on Monday. "It's always good when you get the first one out of the way because like I said, it almost felt like it was Opening Day all over again. Once you get the first hit out of the way, you can relax a little bit."

Jeter seemed particularly happy with his double -- "The hardest hit ball I've hit in three weeks" -- but certainly was not ashamed of his infield single, which traveled no more than 75 feet.

"I don't care how I get my hits," he said. "I have no ego whatsoever. As long as they don't catch them, they're good to me."

Jeter was hitless in his final four at-bats of the game. His average stands at .257.

Jeter's ascent on becoming the 28th major leaguer -- and first Yankee -- to reach 3,000 hits has been difficult for the 37-year-old. His play has been scrutinized as never before.

"I haven't been talking about this too much," Jeter said, surrounded by two dozen reporters and an HBO camera crew chronicling his bumpy path to 3,000. "There's been other things in the media, so it's kind of hard to enjoy it when there's a lot of negativity that's out there."

"Hopefully I'm going to be able to enjoy it these next few days," he said.

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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