Jeter ‘always enjoyed’ time spent in Twin Cities

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, making his last trip to Minnesota before retiring at the end of the season, is the center of media attention prior to Thursday's game against the Twins.

Jim Mone/AP

MINNEAPOLIS — Derek Jeter prefers not to call it a farewell tour, even though that’s essentially what the 2014 season is for the longtime Yankees shortstop. And while this weekend’s series at Target Field will be his last trip to Minnesota with the Yankees, there’s a chance Jeter could be back here in less than two weeks.

Jeter leads the voting for American League shortstops in this month’s All-Star Game, which will be held at Target Field. When the rosters are announced this Sunday, it’s likely Jeter will be making his 14th and final All-Star appearance in a city he’s plenty familiar with.

"We’ve played a lot of great teams here," Jeter said before Thursday’s game at Target Field, the first of a four-game series against the Twins. "I have the utmost respect for Ron Gardenhire, playing against him and his teams through the years. I’ve always enjoyed my time here."

Jeter has played the Twins 128 times in his 20-year career with the Yankees and has had plenty of success against Minnesota. During that time, he batted .323 with 13 home runs, 33 doubles and 58 RBI.

On top of that, Jeter’s Yankees teams have won more often than not against the Twins over the last two decades — especially in the postseason. Minnesota and New York clashed four different times in the playoffs during Jeter’s tenure, with the Yankees winning all four series in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010.

"We ran into that fearsome foursome they got there with (Mariano) Rivera and (Andy) Pettitte and Jeter and (Jorge) Posada. It seems like every time we got in the postseason, we ran into that group," said Twins general manager Terry Ryan. "I’m really fond of all those players, but it’s not going to break most of the peoples’ hearts in this organization when Mr. Jeter’s going to call it a career."

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The Twins will present Jeter with a farewell gift on Saturday, something most home teams have done this year when Jeter made his final trip through various road cities. Minnesota did the same thing a year ago when Rivera played at Target Field for the final time. The Twins gave Rivera a rocking chair made out of broken bats, a tribute to the number of times he broke Minnesota’s bats with his legendary cutter.

It remains to be seen what the gift will be, but manager Ron Gardenhire thinks the Twins’ gift is a "pretty neat thing."

"Everywhere I’ve gone, it’s been above and beyond anything I’ve expected," Jeter said. "I don’t expect anyone to do anything for me, but they’ve been very kind and have given me a lot of nice gifts and given a lot to my foundation, which means a lot to me as well. I’ve been fortunate in that sense because it’s not something I think they need to do or they have to do."

Being in town gave Jeter a chance to see — and face — a few former teammates. Thursday’s starting pitcher, Phil Hughes, spent his first seven years in New York after the Yankees drafted him in 2004.

"Phil’s going to have a lot of success. He’s been pitching extremely well here, if I’m correct, in Minnesota," Jeter said. "I hope he doesn’t do well tonight. He’s fun to get to know him throughout the years. He came up through the organization. I wish him the best. He’s a great guy on top of having great talent."

Also in a Twins uniform is infielder Eduardo Nunez, who played four seasons with the Yankees. Minnesota acquired Nunez this April, and he’s played in 28 games.

In New York, Nunez’s path was blocked in part by Jeter at shortstop. While Nunez played other positions, playing time was tough for him to come by.

"I love Nunez. He’s a great teammate. He’s fun to be around," Jeter said. "He doesn’t speak Spanish or English very well. I don’t even know what he’s saying most of the time. But he’s fun to be around. He enjoys the game. He works really hard. Unfortunately things didn’t work out for him here, but I wish him the best in Minnesota."

Jeter played 52 games in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome before the Twins moved after the 2009 season, and Thursday marked his 11th game at Target Field. If things continue as they have in the All-Star voting, he’ll make his final stop at the downtown Minneapolis ballpark on July 15.

But like his retirement, Jeter isn’t looking that far ahead. Even after 20 years, he prefers to take things one game at a time.

"It’s my last year, but we’re still trying to win games . . . so I’m not just walking around shaking hands and taking pictures," Jeter said. "I still have a job to do."

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