GOODYEAR, Ariz.: Indians manager Terry Francona has endured a love-hate relationship with New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter since the longtime Yankees captain was a 19-year-old in the fledgling Arizona Fall League.
Asked about Wednesday’s announcement that Jeter, 39, will retire after this season, Francona, a former Boston Red Sox manager, said: “[Expletive], I wish he would have quit in ’05!”
Francona went on to share his thoughts of Jeter’s potential hall of fame career with a mix of appreciation for his classy persona and a tinge of disdain for his ability to smile in his competitor’s face before a game, only to stick a dagger in his back during the game.
“If you’re a baseball fan, he’s the walking example of what’s good in baseball,” Francona said. “You respect him so much. And yet, you want him to have as little to do [as possible] with the outcome of a game if you’re his opponent. That’s probably the biggest compliment you can give him. He’s going to find a way to beat you whether it’s on the bases, on defense or at the plate. Because I was in that division, I saw it too much.”
Jeter’s 3,316 hits already rank him 10th all time. He needs 120 more hits to move up to sixth.
“He ranks right up there with the most respected players in the game,” Francona said. “I’m glad he’s walking away on his own terms. But we’ll probably get to see him what, seven, eight times this year? I hope he goes 0-for-28 and we give him a nice plaque or something. But I don’t see that happening. He’s a fun guy to compete against because on and off the field he’s so respectful of the game. But when he gets on the bases, you know he wants to beat your brains out. It’s a great combination.”
First to go down
Minor-league pitcher Bryan Price became the first casualty of camp when he injured a hamstring on the Indians’ first official day of workouts for pitchers and catchers.
“Price tweaked a hamstring backing up a base,” Francona said.
Price, a right-hander, enjoyed a breakout season last year, compiling a 2.04 ERA between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus.
Price, 27, was added to the club’s 40-man roster in the offseason for the first time since joining the organization midseason in 2009. He was part of the three-player package — including pitchers Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone — the Indians received from the Red Sox for veteran catcher Victor Martinez.
Players used to come to spring training to get ready for the upcoming season. Now, they report earlier and earlier and often are already in playing shape. That’s why Francona doesn’t think it’s a big deal that everyday veteran players like designated hitter Jason Giambi, first baseman Nick Swisher and outfielder Michael Bourn are among the team’s few holdouts yet to arrive in Arizona prior to Saturday’s reporting deadline.
“It’s not a test,” Francona said.
“There’s enough trust built already and guys know what to do. If they’re here great, it’s fun to see them and it’s a relaxed atmosphere where they can get their work done. But guys that aren’t here, it doesn’t mean they aren’t working. Jason Giambi doesn’t need to be here. Guys know what they need to do.”
In the fold
Minor-league catcher Roberto Perez finally made it to Goodyear on Wednesday evening and participated in team drills for the first official workout for pitchers and catchers Thursday morning. Perez, who split last season between Double-A and Triple-A, was the lone player among the team’s pitchers and catchers invited to camp who had yet to report. Perez had a pretty good excuse for being a couple days late. His Puerto Rico team advanced to the title game of the Carribean World Series before losing 7-1 to champion Mexico on Saturday.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.