TAMPA — Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter may not play the first few weeks of spring training due to his surgically repaired left ankle, but he still expects to be ready by opening day.
"Why wouldn't it be realistic?" Jeter said. "I broke my ankle in October. It has been quite some time. I'm right where I'm supposed to be up until this point. The ankle has healed perfectly. Now, it is just a matter of getting everything else in shape. … I'm going to have to push myself, but opening day has been the goal all along."
Jeter, 38, who suffered the injury in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series, said he has been cleared to do every type of physical activity. He plans to run on grass for the first time in the coming days, though he estimated it could take two to three weeks before he gets into a spring game.
The slow recovery and rehab tested Jeter's patience during an "absolutely terrible" offseason, in which he was glued to the couch for five or six weeks and had to use a motorized scooter to get around.
"You've got to learn to walk again, so in that sense physically it was a challenge, and then mentally it's a challenge when you sit on the couch and you can't get anywhere," Jeter said. "It was not fun."
But Jeter, who turns 39 in June, believes he can be the same productive player he has been in the past.
"As much as I'd like to be getting younger, I'm not," he said. "Everybody's getting older. There's always going to be questions, there always has been questions. I don't mind that. But it's not like I go out saying, 'I've got to prove something.' I just want to continue to improve. That's just the approach I've always taken."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]