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Derek Jeter takes the field, but only to play catch

Derek Jeter of the Yankees looks on against

Derek Jeter of the Yankees looks on against the Mets at Yankee Stadium. (May 29, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

The last time Derek Jeter spoke to the media en masse was April 25.

That afternoon the shortstop limped into the news conference room at the Stadium and sat on a dais to field questions about his latest setback with his broken left ankle.

Before Wednesday night's game against the Mets, Jeter was much more in his element -- in uniform, on the field.

No, the 38-year-old hasn't been fast-tracked in his return -- that's still expected sometime after the All-Star break -- but Jeter did play catch, a first since a new break was discovered in the foot.

"I just started throwing today," said Jeter, given permission to ditch his walking boot last Friday. "I've got another test in the next week and a half . . . I haven't done much really. I really haven't done anything. I can't run or do anything like that until this next test. We'll wait to see what happens with that."

Jeter did say even before flying to Charlotte to meet with his surgeon that he hopes to head outdoors at the team's minor-league complex in Tampa, Fla.

"I might be able to take ground balls right at me in a couple of days," he said. "But I don't know. It's just that I've got to stay away from impact. I can't jump. I can't run until I get the final clearance.''

Jeter's original injury occurred during Game 1 of last year's ALCS and he maintained almost from that point forward, as did the Yankees, that he would be back by Opening Day 2013.

But the ankle didn't heal as quickly as Jeter hoped and a new crack soon developed; the shortstop has speculated it might have occurred just before he was scratched from a spring training start March 19 in Clearwater. From that time forward, he and the Yankees stopped putting time frames on when he might return.

"As soon as possible, that's it, I'm not going to put a date on it,'' Jeter said. "Last time I put a date on it, it didn't work. As soon as I can play, I'll play."

Jeter said when he's allowed to resume full baseball activities, he won't be any more cautious with his rehab than his previous one.

"I'll do exactly what I'm told to do just like I did last time," he said. "It was a freak incident, I guess, which caused it to break again. I don't know why. I don't think anyone knows why. So, I'll do what I'm told, and hopefully, there's no setback."

Jeter said while he's gotten "more patience as I've gotten older," it's a "character flaw" that he's really not able to put that into practice. And so, no, he doesn't have any more patience since he got hurt.

"Probably less," he said. "I thought I'd be back a long time ago. So my patience is . . . I'm about out of patience. But I'm trying."

As for the Yankees' success despite their many injuries, Jeter relished pointing out to reporters a prediction he made in the spring -- that the club would be just fine.

"I told you guys before . . . everyone talked about, 'Oh, we're not going to hit home runs and how are you going to replace this guy and that guy?' '' he said. "If you play good, you're going to win games. Our team has been playing good. But it starts with the pitching. Our pitching staff has done a great job. If guys pitch, every team has an opportunity to win."

With Greg Logan

New York Sports