CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Derek Jeter had been told to expect some stiffness and soreness in the area around his surgically repaired left ankle, and he had been able to play through it until Tuesday.
But as he was getting ready to make his fourth start of the spring at shortstop, Jeter was scratched from the Yankees' starting lineup due to a stiffer-than-usual feeling at the front of his ankle. The Yankees' captain reiterated that the part of his ankle he fractured last October was fine, and he wouldn't term what happened Tuesday as a setback.
"I was told that you're going to feel it, not necessarily in the ankle but around the ankle, just because I was in a boot for so long that you come out and it's going to take some time to strengthen it. It's normal," Jeter said. "You've just got to deal with it and move on. If I wasn't told that, then I would be concerned. But that's what I've been told."
Jeter was slated to bat second and play shortstop against the Phillies at Bright House Field, and he took batting practice on the field with the rest of the team. But he had a hard time getting his ankle loose, so he went to head athletic trainer Steve Donohue. He then told manager Joe Girardi, who opted to take Jeter out of the lineup.
Jeter was seen Tuesday by Dr. Daniel Murphy, and precautionary X-rays were taken and a precautionary MRI was performed. The X-rays were negative and the MRI found mild inflammation of the ankle, leaving Jeter, who earlier in the day described his ankle as an "old-fashioned day to day," hoping to return to action Wednesday.
"When you're dealing with a rehab, coming back from injury, you're going to deal with some ups and downs. That's the bottom line," Girardi said. "Very seldom do you ever come back from a rehab where it just goes completely smooth. It's really went well up until this point. We've had a lot of good days. Today happened to be a not-so-good day."
Jeter fractured his left ankle during Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, had surgery on it later that month and played in his first Spring Training game on March 9. He made his first start at shortstop on March 13.
At some point over the next few weeks, Girardi planned to ramp up Jeter's innings at shortstop, though both he and Jeter said it wouldn't be necessary to play a full nine innings there before the regular season begins. Girardi said this latest development might affect the plan going forward. Earlier Tuesday morning, Girardi said that plan could involve Jeter being the Yankees' Opening Day designated hitter, not shortstop.
"I'd like to have him at shortstop on Opening Day, but if we collectively feel he could use a few more days, we'll wait," Girardi said. "I've said all along we've got to play it by ear. My goal is to have him at shortstop, and that's his goal. But we might have to make some adjustments on the fly."
Jeter has said repeatedly that he will be ready to play shortstop come Opening Day, though he added Tuesday that he'll line up wherever he's told to play. He didn't think Tuesday's stiffness would change whether he'll be ready to take the field on April 1.
"I think when it's good, it's good. I don't think you have to necessarily scale back innings, but I don't know," Jeter said. "I haven't done this before, so it's a matter of just going out and playing and see what happens. Like I told you guys last week, in Spring Training you don't play nine innings anyway. So I don't necessarily think it's in terms of scaling back innings. It's just getting out there and playing on those particular days."
Jeter said two weeks is plenty of time for him to get ready to play, and he's had enough good days this spring to believe that Tuesday's stiffness won't be a problem come Wednesday. His recovery hasn't been easy, but he didn't necessarily expect it to be, either.
"I was frustrated when I couldn't walk, frustrated when I couldn't run, frustrated I can't go out there and play," Jeter said. "But that's part of the whole rehab process."