Notes: Jeter focused on team, not MVP
Rivera's program pushed back; Matsui to return Tuesday
BALTIMORE -- Derek Jeter is having one of the best seasons of his career, and with the Yankees owning the American League's second-best record and likely headed to the playoffs, Jeter is a strong candidate to win the AL Most Valuable Player Award.
Talk of whether Jeter is a worthy candidate or not surfaced before Monday's game, a day after Red Sox slugger David Ortiz indicated that he would be a better choice than Jeter, even though Boston will probably not advance into the postseason.
"If I get 50 home runs and 10 more RBIs [for a total of 137], that's going to be a round number that no one else in the American League will have," Ortiz told reporters after Sunday's win over the Royals. "They're talking about Jeter a lot, right? He's done a great job, he's having a great season, but Jeter is not a 40-homer hitter or an RBI guy."
"Don't get me wrong -- he's a great player, having a great season, but he's got a lot of guys in that lineup," Ortiz said. "Top to bottom, you've got a guy who can hurt you. Come hit in this lineup, see how good you can be."
Jeter, who extended his career high hitting streak to 21 games in the first inning Monday, responded to Ortiz's comments prior to the game.
"I don't have to do it in his lineup," Jeter said. "I'm not thinking about winning the MVP. I'm just thinking about winning the division. No one's focus here is on individual awards. We've got something to play for."
Johnny Damon, who played with Ortiz for the past three seasons in Boston, said Ortiz's comments didn't sound like something the Red Sox designated hitter would normally say. This year, Damon has seen Jeter on an everyday basis.
"He's gotten clutch hit after clutch hit," Damon said. "I'm going to choose my teammate, bottom line. I see the value Derek brings."
Jeter's .345 batting average ranked second in the American League before Monday's game behind Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer (.350), and Jeter leads the league in batting with runners in scoring position with a .391 mark. The Yankees' captain has also driven in more than 90 runs for the first time since 1999, and his 29 stolen bases are three shy of a career high.
Manager Joe Torre said he believes Jeter when he says that he's not thinking about winning the MVP Award.
"I think he just thinks about what works for him. The way he plays the game is, you know, put the game above anything else," Torre said. "In a lot of ways, that takes pressure off you because it keeps you from worrying about an 0-for-3, and it keeps you from being content with a 3-for-3."
Rivera update: Closer Mariano Rivera's throwing program was pushed back one day, meaning he will not throw again until Wednesday. Rivera, who hasn't pitched this month, extended himself while throwing before Sunday's game, and said the team is just being cautious with him.
Both Rivera and Torre said the All-Star closer is feeling good, and Rivera might throw off the mound for the first time this weekend, possibly Friday or Saturday. In past seasons when the Yankees made the playoffs, Torre liked to use his closer for more than one inning, and Torre said he would like to do that again this season if the team is in the postseason, provided Rivera's healthy.
"I'll let how he feels dictate how I use him," Torre said.
Help on the way: Outfielder Hideki Matsui will rejoin the Yankees on Tuesday, after missing 110 games with a fractured left wrist. Matsui played in four rehab games with Double-A Trenton during the past week, going 3-for-11 with one double and one RBI.
Torre said he that Matsui will start out as the DH, and will either play Tuesday or Wednesday. Before the injury, Matsui batted .261 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 32 games.
"It's always a good problem when you have more ability than you had yesterday," said Torre about added Matsui to an already-potent lineup.
The Yankees will also have Miguel Cairo available for Tuesday's game. Cairo, who has missed more than 30 games with a strained left hamstring, fielded ground balls and ran during batting practice Monday and was later activated.
Health beat: Jason Giambi has missed the last three games with left wrist inflammation, but is expected to play either Tuesday or Wednesday.
"It feels good. I'm definitely looking to play Tuesday," Giambi said. "Even when I move it, it feels good."
Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup Monday after missing the last two games due to illness.
Quoteable: "You don't want to be reminded, but you certainly need to remember what happened in New York." -- Torre on the five-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks
Coming up: The Yankees begin a seven-game homestand on Tuesday, when they host the Devil Rays at 7:05 p.m. ET. Mike Mussina will pitch on six days' rest against Tim Corcoran.
Michael Gluskin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.