TORONTO — For the man who has everything, all Derek Jeter really wants for his 40th birthday is to have it pass quietly.
“It’s like turning any other number,” Jeter said before the Yankees-Blue Jays series finale at Rogers Centre on Wednesday. “I really don’t pay attention much to numbers.”
Jeter has never been keen about discussing his advanced baseball age, though it’s a difficult topic to avoid when the captain of the Yankees is celebrating a milestone birthday today and still making a living as a starting shortstop.
In 1995, when he broke into the big leagues, could he have imagined suiting up in pinstripes as a 40-year-old active player?
“I never sat down and said my goal was to play until this particular age,” Jeter said. “My goal was to play every year and compete. But I never looked that far ahead.
“When you’re 20 years old, coming up, you’re just trying to keep a job. So, I never thought about it.”
Jeter was glad that his birthday fell on a Yankees off-day in New York Thursday. A private gathering was planned. Then, it’s back to work against the Red Sox on Friday at the Stadium —cbusiness as usual.
It’s been 4 1/2 months since Jeter declared this to be his last year as a player. Adjustments have been made over the years, but they’ve been subtle changes in Jeter’s view — no drastic allowances for age.
For one thing, Jeter is a serious believer in mind over matter.
“I don’t think about (age),” Jeter said. “I think the mind is very important. If you start thinking that way, you’re in trouble. So my mind-set is to treat (age 40) no different than any other age. That’s how I cope with it.”
Having never played another big-league position but shortstop, Jeter is not a dinosaur at age 40 but one of a kind.
“It’s pretty incredible. You just don’t see people do that,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi of Jeter’s longevity, which goes along with a Hall of Fame resume. “You don’t see people play until they’re 40. If they are, it’s usually in a different league.”
But there’s no Seniors Tour in baseball.
In the middle of his 19th big-league season, Jeter still detests the days he’s rested and forced to watch from the bench.
“He’d be that way when he’s 75,” Girardi said.
Even now, Jeter wonders why the question comes up about his resistance to sit one out occasionally.
“I played 159 games two years ago,” Jeter said of his 2012 season, which ended with a left ankle fracture in the playoffs. “I expect to play every day. My job is to prepare to play every day.”
So far, Jeter has played in 67 of the Yankees’ first 77 games, including 63 starts at shortstop and three at designated hitter. He also made one appearance as a pinch hitter.
Admittedly, Jeter said it’s been a challenge to ramp back into the grind of a season after missing all but 17 games last season due to a second ankle fracture and related leg injuries.
“From a physical standpoint, as you get older, it’s about the recovery,” Girardi said. “It gets harder on a daily basis, and that’s what you have to worry about.”
With Jeter another year older, wiser and still batting second for the Yankees, his concession to age is to keep working.
“I always worked hard … and worried about being in shape when I was 20 years old. In that sense, it’s no different [now],” Jeter said. “If you have that approach, you don’t have to make much of an adjustment.
“It’s not like I’m going to wake up tomorrow and say I’ve got to do something different.”