Captain Derek Jeter said that it has been "difficult" and "frustrating" to remain on the disabled list with an injured left ankle while his team plays, but he vowed to rejoin the lineup this season.
Jeter spoke on Thursday during a news conference at Yankee Stadium, making his first public comments since learning that he had a new fracture in his surgically repaired ankle. He said there is no doubt in his mind that he will play this season.
"When you have doubt, that's when you're in trouble," Jeter said. "I've been told this bone will heal, and when it heals, I'll be ready to go. It's frustrating that I can't magically make it heal sooner than it's taking, but I have no doubt I'll be back."
The Yankees have said that Jeter is not expected to play in the big leagues until after the All-Star break, and although Jeter has a date in mind -- one that is likely sooner than mid-July -- he does not want to reveal it.
Jeter's initial objective, from the moment he fractured the ankle in Game 1 of last year's American League Championship Series against the Tigers, was to be on the field on Opening Day. He fell short of that but does not regret setting the goal.
"My job is to be ready for Opening Day. I feel like I didn't do my job," he said. "My job was to be ready; unfortunately, I wasn't. I don't regret it, because I think you have to set goals to try to reach those goals. I'm never one to just sit back and have a lot of patience when it comes to anything being wrong.
"No, I don't regret it. I regret that the bone didn't heal, but setting a date -- no."
Jeter spent part of Thursday afternoon huddling with Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte in an office behind the clubhouse, and although he would prefer to be active, he was happy to escape the trainer's room at the team complex in Tampa.
"It's good to see his smiling face in that clubhouse," manager Joe Girardi said. "Obviously, he'd like to be here under a lot different circumstances, but the guys are happy to see him. I was glad to see him. He was smiling. Obviously, he's looking forward to getting back here as a player."
There is some uncertainty about how Jeter's new fracture occurred, but Jeter said that if he had to guess, he'd say it probably happened around the time of a March 19 game against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., when he was scratched with what was said at the time to be stiffness.
Jeter received a cortisone shot, then had four at-bats in a Minor League game on March 23, the last game action he has seen. He was limited to mostly taking ground balls and batting practice due to the soreness in the ankle; the fracture was revealed when he visited Dr. Robert Anderson for a CT scan in Charlotte, N.C., last week.
"I know my body. I knew something was wrong," he said. "I can play if something is in pain. I knew something was wrong, because it's not just tendinitis or stiffness. There's something wrong that was making it unable for me to play. We found out it was because it was broken."
According to general manager Brian Cashman, Jeter will stay with the team at least through this homestand; there is no set date for Jeter to return to Florida.
Girardi said that the Yankees expect to have Jeter back as a productive shortstop at some point.
"He hasn't done anything in his career that would make me believe that he's not going to be a good player when he comes back," Girardi said. "I know it's nine months off, but players get four, five months off in the offseason and they come back fine."
The bone will require anywhere from four to eight weeks to heal before Jeter can resume baseball activities, and he has been refitted for a walking boot to help aid his recovery.
Jeter said that the doctors have been trying different avenues to stimulate bone growth in the ankle, but the most important ingredient is going to be time. Jeter said that while he waits, he talks regularly with several of his teammates to keep tabs on the team.
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