Jeter says hip injury no big deal, but …

Derek Jeter’s slow start has been endlessly analyzed and scrutinized, even though the season is barely one month old.

Now he’s dealing with a right hip ailment — however minor he says it is.

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi removed Jeter in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers. Girardi said he noticed Jeter’s right hip “grabbing at him” as he ran to first base in the top of that inning.

Jeter said he expects to play in Thursday afternoon’s series finale; Girardi was noncommittal about his lineup, saying Jeter is “day-to-day.” Eduardo Nuñez, who replaced Jeter on Wednesday, is the obvious candidate to start if Jeter is unable to play.

“It’s really not a problem,” Jeter insisted. “It’s not ‘hurt.’ Seriously, it’s not that big of an issue. I played with it. I didn’t say anything about it, so he (Girardi) thought to take me out during the ninth inning. It’s not a problem.

“It’s just stiff. But those are things that happen throughout the course of the year. It’s not the first time it happened. I know I say it all the time, but it’s really not an issue.”

Jeter said the stiffness started on Wednesday.

“It’s not an injury,” he said. “I didn’t do it on a particular play. It’s just something that happened. It really is not a big deal.”

With Jeter, though, just about everything is a “big deal” — especially this year. The Yankees shortstop is batting .250, his lowest average since becoming an everyday player in 1996. He is in the first season of a three-year, $51 million contract. And he is set to reach the 3,000-hit mark in late June.

Jeter, 36, has not batted lower than second in the lineup since 2008. He hit leadoff again Wednesday. Thus far Girardi has been unmoved by fans and observers who believe Jeter should bat lower in the order.

“I don’t focus on the short period,” Girardi said before the game. “Derek’s always been a guy that’s team-first. We’re going to do what we think is best. We’ve had other guys struggle in our lineup, and we’ve stuck with them. I wouldn’t say it’s early, but it’s still relatively early.”