New York's 18-year veteran got the day off from the field and instead started at designated hitter because of a bone bruise on his left foot. It marked the first time Jeter didn't start at shortstop during a Yankees postseason game since Tony Fernandez got the call for Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS vs. the Mariners.
Jeter's status for Game 4 was in question after he sustained a bone bruise while fouling a ball off his left foot during the first inning of New York's 3-2 victory over Baltimore in Game 3. The following day, Jeter informed the team he felt fine, but manager Joe Girardi opted to take a cautious approach.
"You can imagine the conversation that we had today," Girardi said prior to Game 4 of the ALDS against the Orioles. "'Derek, how you feeling?' 'Great.' 'OK.' 'I'm playing.' 'OK.' And I said to him, 'Well, I'm going to DH you then today. Let's go through BP and see how you are.'
"He said, 'I'm playing.' I said, 'OK.' So I'm going to let him go through BP and see how he is. If I have to make an adjustment, I have to. But my guess is, he's great."
Jeter insisted on Wednesday night that he would be ready to play in Game 4. That ended up being the case, but Girardi decided to use the DH spot to give Jeter more of an ability to rest the injured foot.
The strategy was similar to the one Girardi used in the middle of September, when he started Jeter at DH four consecutive games following a left ankle injury.
Jeter, who didn't run the bases during batting practice on Thursday, downplayed the injury.
"I'm good, man," Jeter said. "It's really, like I say, why talk about it? You play or you don't. I'm playing, so there's no need to talk about it.
"Wherever [Girardi] wants me to go, that's where I'll go."
New York would have been ill-prepared to miss Jeter for any period of time. He has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise struggling offense, hitting 6-for-13 (.462) with a pair of RBIs out of the leadoff spot.
Jeter also has now hit safely in 14 of his past 15 ALDS games dating back to 2007. He also has 56 multi-hit games in the postseason and is just three hits shy of 200 for his career in the playoffs. That's well ahead of former teammate Bernie Williams, who ranks second at 128.
Veteran infielder Jayson Nix got the start at shortstop in Jeter's absence. It's his first start since Sept. 27 when he suffered a strained hip flexor during a game against the Blue Jays.
"You know, that's what I've been ready for," Nix said of the opportunity. "You never know how things are going to turn out. My hip's turned around really good and I feel great.
"So I knew I was ready, I didn't know, never know what's going to happen and try to stay -- this is what I stay ready for, for situations like this that you might not expect. But you have to be ready for [them]."