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Derek Jeter acknowledges his initial ankle injury progressed to a break

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter says his ankle is all healed and his focus is on getting in shape for the season. Videojournalist: J. Conrad Williams Jr. (Feb. 17, 2013)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Getting Derek Jeter to cop to injury, or even discomfort, is rare.

Yet four months after surgery, Jeter made this admission Sunday morning regarding the left ankle he initially injured in early September:

"It was something that I hurt it, I continued to play on it, probably when I shouldn't have," he said. "But I continued to play on it and then eventually it broke."

That happened in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers on Oct. 13 as he fielded a grounder to his left. Surgery took place a week later, propelling the 38-year-old shortstop into an offseason that he described, again somewhat uncharacteristically, as "absolutely terrible."

He said the experience was rough physically and also mentally.

"But more physical," Jeter said. "I was stuck on the couch for a good five, six weeks, where I couldn't really move around too much.

"I don't want to make it seem more dramatic than it is, but you've got to learn to walk again, so in that sense, physically it was a challenge, and then mentally it's a challenge when you're sitting on the couch, you can't get anywhere. So I had a little scooter to move around, but it was tough. It was not fun."

Last week at the team's minor-league complex, the shortstop began running on a treadmill, the first running he's done during rehab. He expects to run on the field perhaps as soon as Monday when the club has its first full-squad workout.

Jeter and the Yankees have maintained he'll be ready for Opening Day, and though he said "I'm going to have to push myself" in spring training for that to happen, there was no concession that it won't.

"Why wouldn't it be realistic?" Jeter said. "I broke my ankle in October. I'm right where I'm supposed to be up until this point. The ankle has healed perfectly and now it's just a matter of getting everything else in shape."

To use his words from last week, Jeter has received "the green light" to do everything he needs to do. It's up to Joe Girardi to manage things and make sure the shortstop doesn't overdo it.

Both agree Jeter isn't likely to play in an exhibition game the first week. When he is deemed ready, he'll be eased in as a designated hitter.

"There's no rush to get him in games," Girardi said. "Knowing Derek, I feel like he'll be ready , but we'll have to go through this and see."

Girardi said it was a "tussle" to get Jeter to agree to rest the ankle during the last month of 2012. Jeter said he was told he likely suffered a stress fracture at some point before the ankle finally snapped.

"Initially, it was a bone bruise and it progressed from there," Jeter said. "But after it was originally diagnosed -- maybe four or five weeks before it [the break] happened -- they told me it was a bone bruise, and I'm not going to ask them again to look at it again. Just keep playing. And then eventually it turned into a stress fracture and broke in half."

To avoid any confusion, general manager Brian Cashman said later Sunday that the team didn't knowingly send Jeter onto the field with a stress fracture and that it wasn't clear exactly when that progression occurred.

"If you can play, you play," Jeter said. "Like I've always told you before, I don't think you ever really talk about injuries, because then it's an excuse. I was told I was able to play, so I played. Unfortunately, it broke. But I would do the same thing over again if I had to."

With David Lennon

New York Sports