(Look at the range!! Courtesy of The AP)
Even though i didn't see it until the highlights were on BBTN, I'll admit that I rolled my eyes when I saw The Captain's first hit since coming back from the DL come on another dinky infield single that he beat into the ground. But since that play, Jeter has looked a little more lively at the plate and in the field, at least to me.
His double later in the game on Tuesday night was a legit shot into the deepest part of Progressive Field and appeared to be on an inside fastball. Granted, the fastball caught more of the plate than intended, but that's still the type of pitch Jeter has been struggling on since last summer. On that particular pitch, he looked much more like a the Jeter of old, timing his swing perfectly, and pulling his hips and hands through the zone quickly to get around on the ball and make solid contact. When I saw that play on the highlights, the eye roll turned into an intrigued eyebrow raise.
Then last night there were a couple more plays that were attention grabbing. The diving stop up the middle from the bottom of the 4th inning (shown above) was something I can't remember seeing from Jeter in a long time. As I said last night, it helped that he was already playing closer to the 2nd base bag, but when we've come to expect him to reach out and miss by a few feet on balls like that, it's nice to see Jeter leave his feet and actually come up with the ball. And even though it didn't mean a thing in the overall context of the game, Jeter's double in the bottom of the 8th was another flashback to the good old days when he used to murder first-pitch fastballs into the gap. Once again, his timing and swing looked much more in tune than they have this season and there was actually some OOMPH behind the swing.
That play, the rope he hit to center in his 2nd at-bat, and the walk he drew in what was a great at-bat against Justin Masterson as he was on cruise control were all signs that this recent DL stint might have done more for Jeter than just give him time to heal his calf. He looks a little quicker in the field, on the bases, and at the plate. Is it just a mirage or the results of an incredibly small sample size for an older guy coming off extended rest? Could be. But at the very least it's encouraging and good to see. If Jeter can keep this up through the next series against Tampa, he could not only do more than just limp across the finish line to 3,000 hits, he could also slow down, at least temporarily, the shoveling of dirt onto his career as a valuable player.