Derek Jeter sits out with ankle stiffness, still aims for Opening Day

Derek Jeter stretches before a spring training game Derek Jeter stretches before a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla. (March 19, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With less than two weeks to go before Opening Day, Derek Jeter was supposed to play shortstop for the Yankees Tuesday. Instead, he was scratched from the lineup with what he called "stiffness'' in his surgically repaired left ankle.

Jeter had X-rays and an MRI and is day-to-day with mild inflammation of the ankle, the Yankees later announced.

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Jeter, who broke the ankle in Game 1 of the ALCS last October, said he didn't think the stiffness was going to stop him from playing in the April 1 season opener against the Red Sox.

"Two weeks is plenty of time to get ready,'' he said.

However, asked when he might get back on the field, Jeter said: "I don't know. I really don't know. I wish I had an answer for you. But I don't know. I'll play as soon as I can. If I can play tomorrow, I'll play tomorrow. If it's the next day, it's the next day. But the luxury is that it's spring training.''

That luxury expires April 1, when the Yankees open at home against the Red Sox. It was already unclear if Jeter was going to be able to play shortstop or would be the Yankees' designated hitter, with Eduardo Nuñez at short.

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General manager Brian Cashman said his level of concern on Jeter was "none.'' But the Yankees still sent the 38-year-old captain to see Dr. Daniel Murphy for what they called "precautionary'' tests.

"It's just part of the rehab of a broken ankle, which has its up and downs,'' Cashman said by telephone. "There's nothing new, as far as I'm concerned.''

Still, the calendar says that a lack of improvement or a further setback could have Jeter joining Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson on the disabled list when the Yankees open the season.

"We'll see,'' Jeter said. "I guess it's the old-fashioned day-to-day.''

Said manager Joe Girardi: "It's something I told you I've had some concern over . . . Just keep our fingers crossed and hope it's a day or two.''

The decision to scratch Jeter is troubling because Girardi said only hours earlier that he was planning to ramp up Jeter's innings at shortstop. Girardi was asked if he might have to scale back Jeter's workload rather than increase it.

"I don't know," Girardi said. "We might have to. That's why I keep saying it's day by day with him. He might come in tomorrow and feel great. He'll say he feels great anyway."

Jeter said he didn't consider it a setback, though it's hard to see how it isn't because he got worse after not playing since a four-inning stint at shortstop Saturday. Jeter has played in five games this spring and is 3-for-11.

Girardi said trainer Steve Donahue noticed Jeter wasn't moving around during batting practice as well as he had been on other days.

"You watch people's moves and he was stretching it a lot today,'' Girardi said. "For whatever reason, it didn't loosen up.''

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Girardi talked to Donahue and then to Jeter, and Jeter admitted he was feeling more stiffness than he had all spring, although not in the area of the break.

"I'm not concerned because I was told this was going to happen,'' Jeter said. "Maybe if I wasn't told it was going to happen, I'd be concerned. From everything that I've been told from the doctors, it's normal . . . It's just stiffness, but once again, it's not in the part that I broke. It's around there.''

Jeter said the stiffness was in the front of his ankle, near the foot. "It's been all over,'' he said. "You name it. Left, right, front, back, middle, outside, inside.''

Asked if he was frustrated, Jeter said: "Of course. I was frustrated when I couldn't walk. Frustrated when I couldn't run. Frustrated I can't go out there and play. But that's part of the whole rehab process.''

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