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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Derek Jeter's 2013 season has been one long waiting game

Derek Jeter of the Yankees fields balls during

Derek Jeter of the Yankees fields balls during batting practice before the baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium. (Aug. 13, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Derek Jeter had just finished taking batting practice and grounders at shortstop Tuesday in his latest attempt to play this season when he turned to jog in to the dugout.

Jeter's spike caught on a seam in the tarp that covers the grass during BP. The captain of the Yankees almost did a face-plant before righting himself with the aid of bench coach Tony Peña.

A Yankees official put his hands over his face in mock horror.

Jeter is trying to make it back again -- this time from a strained calf muscle -- just as the Yankees are trying to make it back into the playoff race. They have won four of five after Tuesday night's uncharacteristic 14-7 thumping of the Angels.

Jeter has played in five games this season.

"It's killing him," Yankees first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "He doesn't let anybody know that. It's just killing him."

Jeter has never spent this much time on the sidelines. So it has been interesting to watch him before games in his few public moments.

He seems to always be in good spirits, whether it is joking with teammates on the field or interacting with fans while playing catch.

He's even been entertaining when he teases reporters about the never-ending, mind-numblingly tedious injury and rehab questions we have spent most of 2013 asking and he has spent answering.

Is it possible that Jeter has on some level accepted what fate and a 39-year-old body have saddled him with this season? Is he OK sitting on the bench injured when a season is going on in front of him?

Short answer: No.

"You can tell just by the remarks he says," Overbay said. "This is the most time he's missed out of his career combined. I'm like, 'What's with the vacation time? Let's get back in there.' "

Jeter wants to get back in there. Badly.

He wanted to get back in there by Opening Day after breaking his ankle in Game 1 of the ALCS last October.

He wanted to get back in there on July 11, when he made his season debut only to suffer a quad injury and go back on the DL.

He wanted to get back in there July 28, when he homered on the first pitch he saw in his second debut.

Five days later, Jeter played in his fifth and, to this point, final game. Now it's his calf. He is heading to Tampa after Thursday's game to begin ramping it up again.

He is eligible to return Sunday in Boston, but that seems unlikely. Another minor-league rehab stint or at least a simulated game is probably Jeter's immediate future.

He has accepted that the Yankees still will be cautious.

"I can't fight them on too many things at this point," Jeter said. "I think I'm always ready to jump back in. I did last time. But I get it. They want me to go play somewhere, I'll go play somewhere. It's entirely up to them. I'm not really in a power position to negotiate at this point."

Jeter was smiling when he said this; unlike Alex Rodriguez, who fought the team on Twitter when they wouldn't let him play, Jeter has been a good soldier about the Yankees' rehab decisions.

"At this point," Jeter said, "do you think I have any input in anything that goes on around here?"

He would have more if he were healthy. He's trying to get healthy. If he stays away from batting-practice tarps, he just might get back in time to help make the stretch run in the Bronx interesting for more than the A-Rod saga.

New York Sports