Girardi: Jeter 'different player' since 3,000th hit

Girardi: Jeter 'different player' since 3,000th hit

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter has built a reputation on tuning out distractions and pressures on baseball's biggest stage. But when Joe Girardi was asked to what he attributed Jeter's recent surge, the Yankees' manager said passing the 3,000-hit milestone was more important to Jeter than Girardi originally thought.

When Jeter, a career .313 hitter, returned from his calf injury on July 4, his batting average stood at .256. His on-base percentage (.320) and slugging percentage (.320) were also pedestrian. Five days later, he went 5-for-5 en route to picking up hit No. 3,000. Thanks in part to a 2-for-5 performance -- including a three-run homer -- on Sunday, Jeter's batting line since his return entering play Monday stood at .346/.396/.471, and he went 1-for-5 with a double and a run scored in the Yanks' 11-10 win over Baltimore.

"I've said all along, I don't think I realized the pressure he was under to get those 3,000 hits," Girardi said before Monday's game against the Orioles. "Everything in his career, he's always handled with such grace and been able to relax in the big moment. But since he's gotten past [3,000], he's been a different player."

Jeter said Sunday he is staying back more at the plate and dismissed any talk that he plays better following off-days (Girardi rested Jeter on Saturday). No matter the reason, his 2011 stat line of .297/.354/.389 following play Monday is the best it has been all year.