The chances that Jeter will join Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson on the disabled list instead of the field when the season opens on April 1 grew Wednesday. Jeter had a cortisone shot in his surgically repaired left ankle after he was diagnosed the day before with inflammation. His return date to spring training action is unknown.
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"I can't not acknowledge the obvious," general manager Brian Cashman said. "I don't think it's anything serious. It's just a timing issue . . . Opening Day is just a date. What's more important is how he feels and being in a position to do what he's capable of doing on a consistent basis."
Jeter, who broke his ankle last October in Game 1 of the ALCS, had vowed to be ready April 1. But he has only had 11 at-bats this spring. He was scratched from Tuesday's lineup after he felt stiff and couldn't get loose during batting practice.
The Yankees immediately sent Jeter for an MRI and X-rays. After a consultation with his surgeon in North Carolina Wednesday, the anti-inflammatory shot was given.
"We're not shooting him up to get him ready for Opening Day," Cashman said. "We're just following whatever the doctor's recommendations are."
Jeter likely will be sidelined for three to five days to give the cortisone time to work. Even if the 38-year-old captain dives right into exhibition games after that, it seems unlikely he will be able to get enough work to be an option at shortstop when the Yankees open against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
"Because of who he is, I can't rule anything out," Cashman said. "Because of the time frame and everything else, I can't tell you that it's also not possible that he might not be ready."
Said CC Sabathia: "I mean, he broke his ankle less than six months ago. Would you like to have him out there? Of course. But if realistically, he's not, I think him being healthy in the long run is what you look for."
So Yankees fans likely will see Eduardo Nunez and his erratic glove instead of Jeter and his steadying presence. Since 1996, Jeter has been at short in every Yankees season opener except 2001, when he was recovering from a strained quadriceps muscle and Luis Sojo replaced him.
If Jeter avoids the DL, he could start as the Yankees' designated hitter.
"I know if you ask him, Opening Day would be a certainty," Cashman said. "In fairness, I don't know yet. He's got to be in a position where he can play a full nine innings of defense and be able to do back-to-backs and all this other stuff . . . I can't rule out [the DL] until we just see how the next 10 days goes. I'm not saying he's going to be DL'd, but I can't tell you it won't be."
Along with his fondness for double negatives, Cashman repeatedly praised Jeter for his "remarkable" willingness to play through pain. Cashman, who is recovering from his own broken leg and dislocated ankle suffered in a skydiving accident, said Jeter still could surprise everyone. It sounded like wishful thinking.
"If anybody can do it, Derek Jeter can," he said. "Hell, he could come in here and do a jig. This guy's ridiculous. And he might say, 'Cash, why did you open your mouth? I see all this crap in the papers. DL, my ---- .' "