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Yankees forced to adjust to playoff life without Jeter

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Joe Torre knew Derek Jeter's injury was serious the moment the New York Yankees shortstop remained on the ground grimacing in pain after diving for a ground ball.

The former Yankees manager had grown accustomed to Jeter's remarkable durability and desire to play through injury, among the qualities that have made the All-Star the face of the most recognizable team in baseball.

But now the Yankees must adjust to October baseball without their captain, when the stakes are highest.

Tests on Sunday confirmed that Jeter had fractured his left ankle, was through for the postseason and would not travel with the team when the best-of-seven American League Championship Series shifts to Detroit for Game Three on Tuesday.

The Tigers won Saturday's series opener 6-4 in 12 innings. The most enduring image of the game was Jeter lying face down in the infield dirt at Yankee Stadium before leaving with the help of manager Joe Girardi and a trainer, his arms clinging to their shoulders.

The Yankees estimated he would need three months to recover.

"I recall that Opening Day (in 2003) when he dislocated his shoulder, and as he spun over he says, 'I'll be in there tomorrow, Mr. T.,'" Torre, who managed Jeter for 12 seasons in which they won four World Series titles, told reporters at Yankee Stadium ahead of Sunday's Game Two.

"For him to just lay there on the ground you knew that it was more than just a bruise."

Saturday's injury ended a season in which Jeter, 38, led the American League with 216 hits and played in 159 of the team's 162 games.

In addition to his Hall of Fame-caliber statistics, Jeter has been supremely durable. He missed significant time to injury twice - after dislocating his shoulder on Opening Day in 2003, a year in which he played 119 games, and last season, when he played in 131 games around a right calf injury.

Jeter has averaged more than 154 games played in each of his other 15 Major League Baseball (MLB) seasons.

"I finally found a way in my last few years there on how to give him a rest. Instead of just asking, ‘Do you want one?' I would ask, ‘Which one do you want, this day or this day? So he had to give me an answer," said Torre, now MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations.

Opposing manager Jim Leyland of the Tigers said he thinks of Jeter when he thinks of the playoffs. Since 1996, Jeter has been in the playoffs every year except 2008.

"This is a tough story for baseball," Leyland said. "What he has done in the postseason, what he means to the Yankees, what he means to baseball in general."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)