Since position players reported to camp on Wednesday, the focus had been on Alex Rodriguez. In fact, all of the attention had been on Rodriguez after he returned from a year long suspension for his involvement in a steroids scandal. But with games beginning on Tuesday, the attention will shift to Didi Gregorius, who will be the starting shortstop for the Yankees in 2015. For the first time in 19-seasons, the Yankees aren’t going to find Derek Jeter on the roster, or at camp or even in the Bronx. But just because there’s no Jeter in sight, it doesn’t mean the Yankees aren’t hoping for Didi Gregorius to play like Derek Jeter. They just want Didi Gregorius to be himself.
“I personally can’t worry about a shadow of Derek’s somehow affecting the next guy,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said to the New York Daily News yesterday afternoon. “All you can do is tell the next guy, ‘You’re not Derek, so don’t even waste your time trying to be. Just be the best you can be.’ It’s going to fall short of anything Derek did, because he’s one of the greatest players of all-time.”
Gregorius went under the radar over the last few days in camp, but there’s still been speculation about him. The Yankees are aware Gregorius can’t hit left handed hitting and Cashman had even toyed with the idea of having Gregorius platoon with Brendan Ryan (if Ryan is ready to begin the season or is on the roster after he strained his back doing bicep curls). But Joe Girardi told the media he knows a way for Gregorius to gain experience against southpaws.
“I’m just going to play him,” Girardi said. “You let him face lefties.”
Gregorius is replacing a Yankee legend, but other players have replaced Yankees legends over the course of Yankees history. Tino Martinez replaced Don Mattingly. David Robertson replaced Mariano Rivera. And now Didi Gregorius will replace Derek Jeter. Will Gregorius live up to what Martinez and Robertson did in the wake of Yankees legends riding off into the sunset? We don’t know, but what we do know is while Derek Jeter’s leadership can’t be replaced, his spot in the lineup can be. And that’s where Didi Gregorius comes in.