Why Yankees' Didi Gregorius still feels he's in Derek Jeter's shadow

TAMPA -- World Baseball Class-bound shortstop Didi Gregorius' last day with the Yankees for at least 12 days started with a Monday morning interview at his Steinbrenner Field locker. Most of the nine-minute back and forth was about the fast-approaching...

Why Yankees' Didi Gregorius still feels he's in Derek Jeter's shadow

TAMPA -- World Baseball Class-bound shortstop Didi Gregorius' last day with the Yankees for at least 12 days started with a Monday morning interview at his Steinbrenner Field locker.

Most of the nine-minute back and forth was about the fast-approaching first WBC, which will be more hectic than the other Yankees participants because he's playing for the Netherlands, which has three first-round games next week halfway across the world. His Tuesday will be a travel day from hell ... Tampa to New York to South Korea.

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"You've got to drink a lot of fluids," Gregorius said. "You don't want any jet lag. You want to sleep on the plane, too."

Speaking of rest ... Gregorius fielded a couple more questions about a certain someone that never seems to be put to bed during longer in-depth interviews:

Derek Jeter.

This is 3 AD in Yankees' land and Gregorius has done a great job being the successor at shortstop to a beloved franchise great who won five World Series.

Gregorius' 2016 season went very well: He developed into a star both by playing a lot of stellar short and through putting up career-best offensive numbers, 20 homers, 76 RBIs and a .276 average.

NJ Advance Media brought up Jeter on Monday to Gregorius during a small scrum interview, asking him when he felt like he'd finally escaped No. 2's huge shadow.

"It's always there," Gregorius said. "No matter what I do, you guys are going to compare me ... 'Jeter would have made that play.' It's never going to go away because it's a game of comparisons no matter what you do."

After finishing his answer, Gregorius was asked if he's really still hearing Jeter's name come up a lot?

"I don't want to sound stupid, but you just brought it up," he said. "So it's still something. I think last week I had the same question, too. So it's still there. ... Yeah, that Jeter thing will never go away. It's always going to come up.."

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And now the Yankees' supposed next great thing is Gleyber Torres, a 20-year-old shortstop who is one of baseball's best prospects and probably eying up Gregorius job for the future.

Jeter wasn't around to help his successor -- he retired after the 2014 season and Gregorius was acquired in a trade with Arizona that offseason -- but there already has been some mentoring this spring between Gregorius and Torres.

"I talk to all these guys," Gregorius said. "I'm here always at my locker, so I approach them or they approach me. I have nothing against anybody in this clubhouse because we're a team."

Gregorius just turned 27 this month, but Torres, who probably will start 2017 in Double-A, figures to be Major League ready by 2018 or 2019.

Then what?

"I'm just going to play my game," Gregorius said. "That's all I can do. Why worry about something else that I can't control? Try to be a better player, better teammate.

"It's always good to have competition ... but when you're playing a guy that's in your organization ... everybody has to be together. It's a family. I'm not going to be mad that he's there."

Gregorius says he being asked about Jeter doesn't bother him, either.

"There's nothing wrong with that," he said. "He played that position and I came after him.

Gregorius wants to be himself on the field, but he sounded like Jeter when talking about personal goals for this season.

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"You really want to know what's in my mind? Getting a ring," Gregorius said. "That's the only thing in my mind. That's the only goal. That's what we play for. That's what everybody wants to get.

"We have a great team. We have a young team. So everybody's pushing all of the younger guys. Everybody wants to show what they've got. Everybody is counting us out ... but we keep giving them a scare.

"So we've just got to play the game. That's our goal. That's my goal. And if one of these guys doesn't have that goal, then we need to sit at my locker and talk about it."

Randy Miller may be reached at rmiller@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RandyJMiller. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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