NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Derek Jeter is certain he will return to the New York Yankees this season at the same level that made him one of baseball’s most revered players.
Jeter was in a jocular mood and wearing pinstriped pants, a practice jersey and hat, Jeter expressed frustration in learning last week that there was a new break in the ankle, an injury that has sidelined him since Game 1 of the AL championship series. He likely will be out until after the All-Star break.
Still, he never wavered in his confidence that he will run — without a limp — to the shortstop position that has been his since 1996.
“When you have doubt, that’s when you’re in trouble. I have been told this bone will heal, and when it heals I’ll be ready to go,” Jeter said Thursday. “It’s frustrating I can’t magically make it heal sooner than it’s taken.”
Jeter was in the dugout for a game for the first time this season when New York played Toronto, getting to know several teammates that weren’t with the Yankees when he played in his last spring training game in mid-March.
Kevin Youkilis, among the new Yankees, was out of the lineup for the fifth straight game because of a tight lower back.
“He tried to take some work in the cage,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s just not ready. I thought it would be today. So hopefully it’s tomorrow. We’ll just go day by day.”
Girardi is confident that when Jeter returns, he’ll be the same player who has 3,304 hits, including an AL-leading 216 last season.
“He’s had a setback here,” Girardi said. “We have to deal with it but, hopefully, we get him back and he’s the same player he was at the end of last year.”
The 13-time All-Star is disappointed he failed in fulfilling his prediction that he would return by opening day. Now the reality is he will not be able to help his team until around mid-July, weeks after he’s turned 39 years old.
No. 2 has a date in mind for his return, but he not saying when it is.
“The last timeline I set, I didn’t make,” Jeter said. “I don’t want to disappoint myself or anyone else.”
Jeter was always stubborn about injuries, refusing tests and claiming he was well enough to play. He has willed himself onto the field throughout a career in which his 2,531 games at shortstop rank only behind Omar Vizquel (2,709) and Luis Aparicio (2,581).
“I don’t talk about injuries,” he said. “It’s just I think talking about injuries is just making an excuse for yourself. You either play or you don’t.”
In 2004, he famously dived into the stands to make a catch against the Boston Red Sox and walked off the field bloody and bruised. Yet, he took his position at Shea Stadium the next day.
When he dislocated his shoulder in 2003, he returned almost exactly to the day predicted and played through pain much of the season — the only one of his 17 previous full seasons that he played less than 130 games.
At 38, he had no such luck. Jeter played for much of last September with a bad bone bruise. It finally gave out against the Detroit Tigers when he lunged for a groundball Oct. 13. A week later he had surgery, and a Christmas party at Yankee Stadium for his Turn 2 Foundation, he vowed to be on the field for the April 1 opener.
But Jeter was slowed by stiffness and soreness during spring training and only played five big league games, three at shortstop. When the pain persisted into April, he went for a new CT scan in Charlotte, N.C., and that test revealed the break.
“When I got it, it wasn’t good news,” Jeter said. “I thought I would go up there, when I went to see the doc, I thought he would say it was something different. Tape it up. Let’s go. But it wasn’t the case. It didn’t feel too good for quite some time. I’m laughing and smiling and happy that I’m up here. But I’m still upset that I can’t play.”
For now he will be limited to playing cheerleader and working out until he is given the OK to start his on-field rehabilitation again. Jeter walked without a limp into and out of the news conference, and he wasn’t wearing the protective boot he says he has to wear, even though he doesn’t think it’s necessary.
He’ll spend at least the 10-game homestand in New York.
“It’s tough to not be around the team,” Jeter said.
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