Derek Jeter's Bronx return came early.
And that was just fine with Joe Girardi.
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"It has been a long time," Girardi said late Thursday morning after filling out a lineup card that had Jeter in it for the first time this season. "It's really nice to be able to put him in the lineup."
Girardi had Jeter at designated hitter, batting second, in the Yankees' 8-4 victory over the Royals.
Before the game, Girardi said the 39-year-old was likely to make his debut at shortstop Friday night against the Twins, but that changed a few hours later.
Jeter, while unsuccessfully attempting to beat out a grounder in the fifth inning, tweaked his right quadriceps and was scheduled to undergo an MRI. Even if it comes back showing nothing serious, Girardi said Jeter, if he does play Friday night, again will be the DH.
Jeter said his call-up late Wednesday night came as a surprise.
General manager Brian Cashman said the organization's internal plan was for Jeter to complete his rehab assignment Thursday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he played four rehab games, but the events in the Bronx Wednesday night changed those plans. When Brett Gardner and Travis Hafner went down with leg contusions, it accelerated Jeter's return.
"The roster changes that occurred last night made us do some adjustments along the way," Cashman said. "When we lost Hafner on a day-to-day situation, right away the thought popped into my head . It was an obvious situation where he could DH today in Scranton or DH today in New York. Might as well bring him in to DH in New York."
Jeter left Scranton late Wednesday and said he got to sleep at about 4 a.m. Thursday morning. He woke up at about 6 a.m. and did not fall asleep again.
He arrived in the clubhouse at about 10:40 a.m., with CC Sabathia the first to greet him, doing so with a smile. Eduardo Nuñez soon came over and gave Jeter a hug.
The move to promote Jeter on Thursday, of course, wouldn't have been made had the reports from his previous four rehab games expressed reservations. But two of Cashman's most trusted lieutenants -- special assignment scout Jim Hendry and special adviser Gene Michael -- said Jeter was "moving extremely well," and that he was essentially major league-ready.
Cashman spoke late Wednesday night with Jeter, who earlier in the week actively lobbied the GM for an early return.
"All I had to hear from him was, 'Hey, I'm ready,' " Cashman said. "He said that and I said, 'All right, head on back.' "
The expectation since Jeter went down in Game 1 of last year's ALCS was that he would be ready by Opening Day. But Jeter suffered a setback late in spring training, and Opening Day came and went without him in the lineup. In mid-April, as his rehab plodded slowly along, a new fracture was discovered in the ankle.
Cashman, however, said that even with this accelerated timetable, he's not concerned about another setback.
"The feel on this is different," Cashman said. "Before he wasn't running well, he had some pain. He wasn't moving as well. He's not having any discomfort. He's moving really well, he's running really well. There's none of that taking place here so the belief is this is all behind us."
Jeter said his expectations are the same as always.
"I expect the same thing I expect every year," said Jeter, who hit .316 with a .362 on-base percentage in 159 games last season and led all major-leaguers with 216 hits. "I expect to help this team win games, that's the bottom line. That's what we play for and I don't expect anything different."