Derek Jeter believes he'll be ready to play on opening day. / Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY, Sports
TAMPA - New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter still hasn't begun running yet on anything but the treadmill since fracturing his left ankle in the playoffs, and has no idea when he'll start playing spring-training games, but vowed Sunday he'll be ready by opening day.
"Why wouldn't it be realistic?'' said Jeter, who has a metal plate and screws in his ankle for support. "I broke my ankle in October. Now, it's healed. I'm right where I thought I'd be. â?¦I'm going to have to push myself. It's a challenge.
"I've got to get myself in baseball shape.''
Jeter, 38, who could become a free agent if he doesn't exercise the $8 million player option in his contract, says he hasn't begun to think about whether this could be his final season.
"We're all getting older,'' Jeter said. "I don't think about age. If you get caught up in age, that's negative thoughts.''
Jeter, who broke his ankle in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, concedes he probably shouldn't have been playing. He was diagnosed with a bone bruise in mid-September which turned to a stress fracture.
"I'd still do it all over again if I had to,'' Jeter said. "If you can play, you play. I learned you don't talk about injuries. No excuses.
"It was just a freak thing. I had it [the stress fracture]. I wanted to play on it probably when I shouldn't have, and it broke. If it didn't break on that play, it probably would have broke it on another play.''
But the fracture led to what Jeter termed a "terrible" offseason.
"My offseason was terrible," Jeter said. "Absolutely terrible. â?¦
"I don't want to make it sound more dramatic than it is, but you have to learn to walk again. In that sense, physically it was a challenge. Mentally, it was a challenge when you are sitting on the couch and you can't get anywhere.
"I had a little scooter to move around. It was tough. It was not fun."
Jeter realizes the Yankees are the oldest team in the major leagues, but says he still prefers to call it "experienced,'' believing there's no reason why the Yankees can't return to the postseason with the same expectations as every year.
"We're experienced, what can you say, other than you can use that to your advantage.''
The Yankees also will be playing without All-Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez for at least the first half of the season, and Jeter was unaware until Sunday that Rodriguez has no plans to attend the Yankees' camp this spring, rehabbing from his hip surgery in New York."
"It's going to be weird,'' Jeter sized. "He's been part of this team since 2004. It's going to be awkward.''
Yet, he says, it will not be awkward playing alongside Kevin Youkilis, his longtime nemesis with the Boston Red Sox. Youkilis found himself on the back pages of the New York tabloids by saying that he'll always be a Red Sox at heart.
"[Andy] Pettitte told me to say something controversial here,'' Jeter said, laughing, "to get him off the back pages. Hey, welcome to New York.''
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Read the original story: Jeter aims for opener, calls A-Rod situation 'awkward'