Jeter expects to be ready for Opening Day
Captain's spring schedule will be lighter than usual
TAMPA, Fla. -- Derek Jeter's schedule will be lighter than usual while he returns from a left ankle injury this spring, but the Yankees' shortstop said that he expects to be ready for Opening Day.
Jeter will not appear in the Yankees' early exhibition games because of his surgically repaired left ankle. He said that his recovery is on schedule, and he plans to move his running program from the treadmill to the field in the next few days.
"I broke my ankle in October. It's been quite some time," Jeter said. "I'm right where I'm supposed to be. Up until this point, the ankle has healed perfectly. Now, it's just a matter of getting everything else in shape.
"You've got to wait for the bone to heal before you can do other activities that are even before baseball activities. Now, it's just progressing up until that point. I'm going to have to push myself, but Opening Day has been the goal all along."
Jeter said that he had plates and screws inserted in his ankle, which shattered as he lunged for a ground ball in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Tigers, and that they are likely to remain there permanently.
He also said that he probably should not have been playing on the ankle, which had already been weakened by a nagging bone bruise. But the captain had no regrets about continuing to take the field for the Yankees' playoff run.
"If you can play, you play," Jeter said. "Like I've always told you before, I don't think you ever really talk about injuries, because then it's an excuse. I was told I was able to play, so I played. Unfortunately, [my ankle] broke. But I would do the same thing over again if I had to."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said at the time that one of Jeter's only requests during that game was to not be carried off the field. Jeter hoped to walk off under his own power, but ultimately needed to lean on Girardi and head athletic trainer Steve Donohue for support.
"It's kind of awkward to have someone carry you off the field in front of 40-something thousand people, so I'd rather walk if I could," Jeter said. "But, unfortunately, I couldn't put weight on it. I didn't want to be carried off the field; kind of embarrassing."
Jeter said that it was difficult to watch the final three games of the Yankees' 2012 postseason, and after the injury, he spent five to six weeks of the offseason on the couch because he was unable to move easily. At one point, he even tried using a scooter to get around.
"My offseason was terrible," Jeter said, with a laugh. "Absolutely terrible."
Jeter estimated that it could be two to three more weeks before he appears in an exhibition game, but said that the late start to his spring should not affect his preparation for the season.
"I don't think you necessarily need all of Spring Training to get ready," Jeter said. "There have been years when I've played in the WBC and missed the majority of Spring Training -- and was still able to get ready."
Jeter said that tests have shown the range of motion has almost completely returned to his left ankle. Even as he enters a season that will see him turn 39 in June, Jeter believes he will continue to be the same productive player he has been in the past.
"As much as I'd like to be getting younger, I'm not," Jeter said. "Everybody's getting older. There's always going to be questions, there always has been questions. I don't mind that. But it's not like I go out saying, 'I've got to prove something.' I just want to continue to improve. That's just the approach I've always taken."