MLB

Jeter could return to Yankees Sunday

New York Yankees infielder Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter is hopeful that his next comeback will last longer than one game.
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NEW YORK (AP)

It's no mystery the slumping New York Yankees could really use their captain.

They could get him back Sunday.

Derek Jeter passed one final test of his strained right quadriceps Saturday, playing a simulated game at a location the Yankees kept secret until after they lost 1-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx.

Jeter was at the home of the Staten Island Yankees a little more than 12 miles from where the big league club got two-hit by Chris Archer in its sixth loss in nine games since the All-Star break.

"It's obviously someone we've been waiting for for a long time," manager Joe Girardi said. "We had him for one day. We won that game, so hopefully his ratio continues."

If he's feeling well, Girardi said Jeter will start at shortstop Sunday for the Yankees.

Jeter returned to the Yankees July 11 after missing the first 91 games this season because of a twice broken ankle, first done in the opener of the AL Championship Series in October. He then pulled his quad running out a grounder in his first game back and was placed on the DL.

New York kept secret the locale of his simulated game because Girardi said early Saturday that he wanted let Jeter do his work. That set off a guessing game of sorts: Where in the Yankees universe was Derek Jeter?

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Guesses on Twitter regarding Jeter's whereabouts ranged from the Staten Island Yankees field to the Mets' Citi Field in Queens to PlayStation.

A small flock of pigeons planted themselves at shortstop in the top of the fifth at Yankee Stadium and didn't leave the infield until the eighth. Could they have been looking for Jeter, too?

At Staten Island, Jeter faced a Class-A pitcher. He had eight at-bats, and ran from first to third and second to home. He also fielded his position, which included just getting set at shortstop.

"You can be in great shape, but playing shape's a little bit different because you're getting used to standing around, starting and stopping, so we had to do all that," Girardi said. "As of right now, he came out very well. So we'll see how he feels tomorrow."

With Jeter out and Alex Rodriguez, on his 38th birthday, rehabbing his quadriceps strain at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., alongside other injured stars, including Curtis Granderson, the Yankees lost another player to injury.

Travis Hafner had an MRI Saturday that showed a right rotator cuff strain. The lefty-swinging slugger will be put on the DL Sunday.

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Yet another blow for a club that has not homered in nine straight games, its longest streak since going 10 in a row in 1984.

And the Yankees' newest hope to provide power — Alfonso Soriano — was hitless in three at-bats, leaving him 0 for 8 since returning to New York.

Kelly Johnson had an RBI single off Ivan Nova (4-4) in the sixth to help the AL East-leading Rays improve to 24-5 since June 23, when they were in last place.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said before the game Archer (6-3) embraces the big moments, and he sure did once again at Yankee Stadium.

The 24-year-old rookie with a Captain America lunchbox in his locker never threw more than 14 pitches in an inning and needed just 97 overall — 67 for strikes — for his second career complete game.

Archer gave up a single to Lyle Overbay with one out in the fifth and a ground-rule double to Brett Gardner in the sixth for New York's only hits.

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"I don't feel helpless," Girardi said. "I still believe in these guys. I see how they go about their business."

Archer did not walk a batter and struck out six. He got to finish what he started, catching Ichiro Suzuki's comebacker and tossing to first for the final out.

Archer outpitched Nova in the Bronx for the second time this season. Last month, Archer won by holding the Yankees to one run over six innings.

"That's like a classic, old mid-60s kind of pitchers' duel at Yankee Stadium," Maddon said of Saturday's matchup. "It was incredible to watch."

Nova matched Archer with a mixture of fastballs that reached 96 mph and a biting curveball that had the Rays swinging at dirt. He yielded six hits in seven innings. Nova threw 62 curveballs out of his 105 pitches in seven innings.

He struck out the side in the fourth after Wil Myers led off with a double and James Loney followed with a walk.

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Nova finished off the fifth with strikeouts of Desmond Jennings and Evan Longoria. Longoria chased a breaking pitch down and away and smacked the barrel of his bat in frustration.

"He was good," catcher Chris Stewart said. "His fastball command was strong down in the zone, with movement. He got a lot of groundball outs, mixed in the curveball. Had some jams out there, but he was able to make some good pitches to get out of them."

The walks finally hurt Nova in the sixth. His free pass to Matt Joyce with two outs put runners on first and second and extended the inning to allow Johnson a chance to bat.

Johnson then got enough of a 95 mph fastball to bloop it out into center field to drive in Ben Zobrist for a 1-0 lead.

Notes

Rodriguez did light running in the outfield, played catch, hit off a tee in the indoor cage and took 17 grounders hit directly at him on the grass in front of the dirt at third. Six fans, one with a poster board sign saying "Happy Birthday Alex" were there when he left. ... The Yankees will honor 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui before Sunday's game. ... Maddon became a grandfather for the fourth time. Giuseppe Ennio Maddon was born Friday night.

Tagged: Rays, Alex Rodriguez, Kelly Johnson, Ivan Nova, Yankees, Derek Jeter

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