Jeter downplays stride tweak

TAMPA — Derek Jeter says too much is being made about the change of his front-foot stride.

The Yankees captain no longer is striding with his left foot. He made a smaller adjustment late last season, shortening his stride after a session with hitting coach Kevin Long.

"I'm not changing a swing," Jeter said Tuesday. "My swing is exactly the same. I'm shortening down the stride. It's really not as drastic as people are making it out to be. I'm not putting my hands in a different position. I'm not doing a different path. It's just the striding. … I'm trying not to."

Jeter, who takes extra batting practice on a regular basis, worked with Long in an indoor cage Tuesday, one day after saying he was not yet comfortable with the modification. Jeter asked Long to work with him before the coach departed for Tuesday's road game against Pittsburgh.

"It just cuts down on bad habits," Jeter said. "Striding too far forward. Tying yourself up. Habits that I got into last year. Trying to just eliminate those. It's just repetition, really. That's the only thing that you're trying to do is just doing it over and over until it becomes natural."

Jeter was not scheduled to play in the contest with the Pirates.

"A good session," Long said.

WARMING UP: RHP Phil Hughes plans to throw more changeups this spring so he can throw more during the season.

He also has to work on his fastball, cutter and curveball.

Hughes threw three changeups in two innings of New York's 2-0 loss to the Pirates, but facing only six batters he couldn't throw too many of any one kind.

"There's probably a five-way tie for first," Hughes said, grinning.

Phils: Not to worry

CLEARWATER — LHP Cliff Lee gave up two runs and struggled with his control in his spring debut, but he didn't sound too worried about it after the Phillies' 6-2 loss to a Tigers split squad.

Lee, the biggest prize on the free-agent market this offseason, agreed to a $120 million, five-year contract in December for his second stint with Philadelphia.

He pitched two innings Tuesday and hit the first batter he faced, Will Rhymes. He also walked one in his first game back with the Phillies since the 2009 World Series.

"I wish that I didn't hit a guy and walk a guy, but I was just working on locating fastballs. (That) was the main thing for me today," Lee said. "I threw a few cutters; that was really the best pitch working for me. It was good to get the first one over with. I wish the results were better, but it is what it is."

Just more than two months ago, Lee, 32, stunned many and sent Phillies fans into a frenzy when he rejoined the team that traded him to Seattle a year earlier. Fresh off a World Series defeat with the Rangers, Lee was pursued aggressively by both Texas and the Yankees.

But the Phillies, who dealt Lee to Seattle in December 2009 to make room for RHP Roy Halladay, swooped in and signed Lee, forming a fearsome rotation that also includes former postseason MVPs Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

Although Lee's previous stint with the Phillies was limited to a little more than three months, he is celebrated in the city of brotherly love.

"I don't know, you'd have to ask those guys," Lee said of the adoration from the Philly fan base. "I'd hope they respect the way I play, I hustle, I give everything I've got each day. These fans can definitely sense effort; they understand the game, they're educated fans."

STILL WAITING: 2B Chase Utley's return is still uncertain after he had an MRI exam on Saturday that revealed right knee tendinitis. "As long as we can have him healthy and ready to play on opening day, that's kind of how I look at it," manager Charlie Manuel said.

Jays: Finding holes

LAKELAND — It worked, and it didn't.

Blue Jays LHP Ricky Romero has been trying to develop his sinking fastball this spring and threw several in his outing against the Tigers. All 10 balls put into play against him were on the ground; that's the good news. The bad? Five snuck through the infield, leading to a four-run, 21/3-inning outing.

"There were a lot of ground balls and a lot of them just found the holes," Romero told the Toronto Sun. "I'm a competitor and I want to come straight out of the chute, sharp as a knife. I wasn't able to do that (Tuesday). I've got to get back to work."

Romero also walked two.

"I hate walks," he told the Sun. "Walks have caused trouble for me in the past and it's definitely something I want to clean up this year."

Romero is expected to be the opening day starter, but manager John Farrell hasn't announced a decision.

.fast facts

Blue Jays

Where: Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, 373 Douglas Ave., Dunedin

Today: vs. Rays, 1:05 p.m.,

Dunedin

Phillies

Where: Bright House Field, 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater

Today: vs. Orioles, 1:05 p.m.,

Clearwater

Yankees

Where: Steinbrenner Field, corner of Dale Mabry and Martin Luther King, Tampa

Today: vs. Astros (ss), 1:05 p.m., Tampa

Jeter downplays stride tweak 03/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 7:17pm]

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