There's a sense that this American League pennant race doesn't begin until the Yankees' reinforcements arrive from the disabled list. So sound the bugles, because the most important one of all, captain Derek Jeter, is scheduled to begin playing rehab games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Saturday night.
The projection all along has been that Jeter will return to the Yankees sometime after the All-Star break, but general manager Brian Cashman, while declining to give a timetable, did not rule out a return during the 10-game homestand that began Friday night leading into the July 15-18 break. "I think we're in a great spot to get him going," Cashman said. "We'll just see how he looks once he gets to Scranton."
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Plans call for Jeter to play five innings. While Alex Rodriguez began his rehab stint earlier this week with the Class A Charleston RiverDogs and indicated he expects to take a full 20 days to prepare, Jeter clearly is on a much faster track.
"We're starting him in Scranton because he's been getting so many simulated at-bats," Cashman said. "Normally, when we get these guys going in their rehab settings, you start them out slow. But he's been getting so much live, simulated at-bats that we've assessed he can jump into Scranton."
Cashman said Jeter has been running the bases at full speed on his mending broken ankle for a week, adding, "He looks good."
According to an Associated Press report from Tampa, Jeter had six simulated at-bats against minor-league pitchers Friday at Steinbrenner Field and ran the bases after putting the ball in play. He also made one of his trademark jump throws to first after fielding a grounder.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi took a cautious approach, saying he has to see if Jeter is comfortable and recovers well enough to play several games in a row. Girardi and Cashman agreed there will be no rushing Jeter or Rodriguez into the lineup for the Boston series July 19-21 if they're not physically ready.
When asked if Jeter has expressed an opinion about when he expects to return, Cashman said, "Yeah, I've talked to Derek about how he feels. I won't reveal that. But he's definitely expressed to me where he's at and how he feels, just like he expressed to everybody in March . You've got to temper it because I know he is 'Superman.' "