TAMPA, Fla. -- Derek Jeter may participate in baseball activity if he chooses, though after a winter of rehabbing his broken left ankle, the Yankees captain said he won't begin full-scale preparations for another week or two.

Instead, he will stick with what he said has been his regular offseason routine, saving baseball activities for later in the month. He reiterated his belief that he'll be ready by Opening Day.

"I've got the OK to start baseball activities," Jeter said Wednesday at a launch party for his annual charity golf outing. "But I don't start until next week or the week after, anyway. In terms of baseball activity, I'm right where I need to be."

It's a major step for Jeter, who walked the red carpet Wednesday night in a crisp gray suit. He moved without a hitch and without a walking boot.

Former teammate and fellow Tampa resident Tino Martinez said he has seen Jeter's progress from the beginning. Jeter returned to Florida after the season, in crutches and a walking boot, which he wore until right after Christmas.

Still, Martinez said he wouldn't be surprised if Jeter was ready for Opening Day.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"You know he's going to come back," Martinez said. "He's working hard to get back and have a good year."

The Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman have caught heat for a roster that has improved only marginally during the winter, all while the division rival Blue Jays have stocked up. The Yankees have also added older veterans such as Kevin Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki, doing little to change the perception that the Yankees may be too old.

"Too old? Or experienced?" Jeter said. "Which word to you want to use?"

Jeter, 38, said he will save his own evaluations about the roster for spring training, when the team reports to Tampa.

"We're always full of surprises,'' he said, an acknowledgment that the roster could change. "You never know what's going to happen. But we'll see when we get there how the team looks. It's a long season. I'm pretty sure we'll be competitive and be right where we need to be."

For the 10th straight year, he is playing host to celebrities in the Derek Jeter Golf Classic to benefit his Turn 2 Foundation. Just as he's done with baseball, the Yankees captain intends to limit his golf activities, sticking to just putting during the tournament Friday.


Yanks, Hughes agree

The Yankees avoided arbitration with pitcher Phil Hughes, the team announced. A source confirmed that the two sides agreed to a one-year, $7.15 million deal, representing a $3.95 million raise for the righthander.

Hughes, 26, finished 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA last season.

advertisement | advertise on newsday


Tino turned down Sox

Martinez, the former Yankees mainstay, acknowledged that he considered accepting an offer to become hitting coach of the rival Red Sox. Instead, Martinez took the same position with the rebuilding Marlins, which allowed him to work closer to his family in Tampa.

If all goes well, Martinez said he may explore trying his hand at managing.


advertisement | advertise on newsday

Yanks to play Army

The Yankees will play a 2 p.m. exhibition at West Point on March 30, the club announced Wednesday, reviving a tradition that began in 1927. It will be the Yankees' 22nd exhibition game against Army and their first since 1976.