TAMPA, Fla. -- Derek Jeter on Saturday took the next step toward his goal of playing for the Yankees on Opening Day. But the first step of that next step was almost a doozy.
Playing for the Yankees' Triple-A team in his first game action in a week, Jeter batted four times as the designated hitter and grounded out each time against Pirates righthander Phil Irwin.
Jeter seemed to be running better each successive time he left the batter's box. But heavy rain in Tampa Friday night left the dirt around the plate a little wet.
"It takes time,'' Jeter said. "But I was also cautious because the field was kind of wet. I almost wiped out a couple times out of the box.''
Jeter is trying to beat the clock so he can play in the Yankees' April 1 season opener against the Red Sox. He was scratched from a spring training game on Tuesday with stiffness in his surgically repaired left ankle and had a cortisone shot Wednesday.
Saturday morning, Jeter took batting practice and fielded grounders at short at Steinbrenner Field. Once he passed those tests, it was decided that he would be OK to start a few blocks away at the Yankees' minor-league complex.
His at-bats ended with three ground balls to third base and one to first. Between at-bats, he chatted with Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson and, at one point, went to hit in an adjacent batting cage.
"Results, just like when you start , aren't the most important thing,'' Jeter said. "It's just to see pitches, and that's what I did, and then we'll move from there.''
Jeter, who had only 11 at-bats in major-league spring training before his setback, likely will play only in minor-league games so the Yankees can preserve the right to backdate him if he has to start the season on the DL. That would mean he'd have to miss only the first four games.
Jeter's schedule for Sunday is up in the air -- literally. Rain could wash out the scheduled minor-league game, so the Yankees will make a decision in the morning.
Oh, and don't ask Jeter how his ankle feels.
"I will not address how anything feels anymore,'' Jeter said. "It's good. It's not broken. Some things you've got to work through.
"It's really pointless to sit here and say each and every day, 'How's it feel? Does it feel better?' It's pointless. Some days are good, some days are bad, but you've got to work through it. That's what I'm going to do.''