TAMPA, Fla. - Brendan Ryan had an MRI Friday that revealed something pushing on the nerves in his back, and Derek Jeter's backup likely will start the season on the disabled list.
The news is significant not only because the Yankees will be without Ryan but because whoever backs up Jeter will play during the season's opening stretch.
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The Yankees open the season with 13 straight days of games. The odds of Jeter playing shortstop in all 13 are about the same as that of Duke-slayer Mercer winning the NCAA Tournament. Sure, it could happen, but it's much more likely not to.
"I like to play every day. Bottom line," Jeter said before the Yankees hosted the Pirates. "When I play, when I don't play is not up to me. But my job is to be ready to play every day. It's always been that way. It always will be that way."
Asked if he has any concerns about the left ankle injury that limited him to 17 games in 2013, Jeter said: "Nope."
Jeter put a scare into Yankee hearts Friday night when he fouled a ball off his left foot in the first inning. Later in the at-bat, after another foul off the same foot, Jeter stumbled around in obvious pain. But he stayed in the game and went 0-for-3 with an RBI to drop his average to .122.
As for the regular season: Joe Girardi made it clear that he doesn't see Jeter playing 13 straight days at shortstop. The second series of the season is on artificial turf in Toronto, so expect Eduardo Nuñez or Dean Anna or Yangervis Solarte to start at least one of those games.
Two of those three should make the Opening Day roster as backup infielders unless Ryan makes an unexpectedly quick recovery. Scott Sizemore also is a possibility, though he doesn't play short.
Ryan's injury won't affect how often Jeter plays, Girardi said. "You can't let someone's playing time depend on if there's an injury or not to someone else," he said. "You still have to adjust to that player. I've told Derek all along there is no magic number. It depends on how I feel that he's moving and our communication. If he needs a day, then that's how I'll look at it."
Ryan, who had a herniated disc that did not require surgery in 2011, hasn't played since March 4. He was supposed to start Thursday but was scratched because of back pain. "Everything's just snarled up," he said. "I feel it a little bit when I breathe."
Notes & quotes: Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) is on target to return Tuesday, Girardi said, after running for the first time since his injury . . . One start after throwing five no-hit innings, CC Sabathia shut out the Pirates on four hits in seven innings in the Yankees' 4-0 win.