CHICAGO -- Derek Jeter doesn't just continue to move up the all-time hits list. His batting average continues to climb, too.
In 24 games since coming off the disabled list with a right calf strain -- and sitting six hits away from 3,000 upon activation -- the Yankees' shortstop entered play Thursday batting .333 with a .380 on-base percentage. Heading into the series finale against the White Sox, Jeter's batting average sat at .280 -- the highest it had been since May 10.
Joe Girardi has noticed a change in him.
"Sometimes, we don't always understand what a player is going through," the Yankees' skipper said, "and maybe that 3,000 was more of a weight than any of us thought, because he's been so good at handling everything that has been thrown his way, but none of us have ever been in that position. Maybe it was a bigger weight than we thought."
At the plate, Girardi says Jeter has been "driving the ball a lot better. He's pulling more balls. He looks a lot different to me."
Jeter had a 5-for-6 game on Wednesday, one that gave him 3,027 career hits and moved him past Hall of Famer Lou Brock for sole possession of 23rd place on the all-time list. Jeter now has three multi-hit games in his last four contests.
Jeter still has some pretty drastic lefty-righty splits -- batting .362 against lefties and .251 against righties -- but he has set aside any questions regarding his age and productivity. At least for now.
"He's been great," Girardi said. "And Derek's not a guy I would bet against, because of the way he goes about his business and the pride that he has in his job."
Girardi undecided on makeup of rotation
CHICAGO -- Ivan Nova's pitching performance in Thursday's 7-2 win over the White Sox has given Joe Girardi a tougher rotation decision than he could've ever imagined.
It's a good thing, of course, because it means both Nova and Phil Hughes are both pitching well. But as the Yankees head to Fenway Park for a critical weekend series against the Red Sox on Friday, Girardi still must weigh several options.
As of late Thursday night, he was still in that process.
"We'll continue to talk about it," Girardi said after Nova gave up just one run while striking out a career-high 10 in 7 2/3 innings. "We have a good problem. We have a lot of people throwing the ball well, and I'd like to keep it that way."
Hughes is still on track to start on Tuesday, and CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and a struggling A.J. Burnett don't figure to go anywhere. So for the moment, it seems like the decision is all about what to do with Nova.
Does he stay in the rotation, which means the Yankees go with six starters for at least one more turn and have a three-man bench?
Does he go to the bullpen, where he has very little experience?
Or does he go down to the Minor Leagues despite giving up three runs in 14 2/3 innings through his last two big league starts?
Girardi will huddle up with general manager Brian Cashman soon and make a decision.
"We don't have to rush to make a decision with what we're going to do," Girardi said. "But eventually, we'll have to."
Gardner stands by head-first slides into first
CHICAGO -- Take a glimpse at Brett Gardner's right arm, and you'll see an assortment of scratches and scars, most of them stemming from diving head-first on bang-bang plays at first base -- an act many will deem unnecessary and even counterproductive.
But Gardner will continue to do it, because in his case, he feels it allows him to get to first base quicker.
"Guaranteed," he said.
Don't believe him?
"If somebody wants to argue with me about it," Gardner said, "I'll sit them down in front of a computer for two minutes and show them that I do get there faster."
Due to the risk of injury, Gardner will only dive head-first into first base if he feels it's absolutely necessary to beat a throw, which he has done at least a couple of times in this four-game series against the White Sox.
Many in baseball are against diving head-first into first base, not only because of the injury risk, but because they feel it's actually slower than running through the bag.
But while that may be the case for many, Gardner feels he actually gets to first base quicker, because when he runs through it "there's a little bit of time when I'm in the air, waiting to come down to first base. That's like wasted time," he said.
Gardner has pored over the tape, has timed himself down the line, and has noticed he gains extra time by diving in. It may only be by a split second, but it's enough to make an appreciable difference for a speedster who makes a living with his legs.
Gardner came into the finale against the White Sox on Thursday batting .280 with a .359 on-base percentage, and tied for the American League lead with 33 steals. In 21 second-half games, he's hitting .329 with a .398 on-base percentage and 10 steals.
A lot of that success has come on infield singles he has been able to beat out in just the nick of time. Gardner -- who missed over a month in 2009 after breaking his thumb sliding feet-first -- feels you can get hurt doing anything in this game.
And the advantage of sliding head-first into first base is worth the risk.
"I try not to ever do it if I don't have to," Gardner said. "But if a guy is coming over and he's covering the bag and I feel like I can dive head-first and have my hand touch first base before his foot touches first base, I'm going to do it."
The Yankees went their entire four-game series against the White Sox -- a span of 33 innings because of Tuesday's rain-shortened game -- without walking a single batter.
Nick Swisher released a 12-song album entitled "Believe" this week. The record, with features Barry Zito and Bernie Williams playing guitar, is available online, with a portion of the proceeds going to Swisher's foundation, Swish's Wishes.
Right-hander Mark Prior, who suffered a bruised left forearm after being hit by a ball during batting practice on Thursday, is scheduled to pitch in a rookie-level Gulf Coast League game on Friday.
With a 5-for-6 performance on Wednesday, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter became the second player since 1900 to record two five-hit games in the same season at age 37 or older, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other was Dave Winfield, at age 39 in 1991.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.