TAMPA, Fla. — Derek Jeter had a miserable offseason he would rather forget.
Not only did the New York Yankees captain not win another World Series ring, his season ended when he had to be helped off the field because of a broken ankle.
“Absolutely terrible,” Jeter said Sunday, the spring training reporting day for New York’s positions players. “Mentally it was rough, too, but more physical. I was stuck on the couch for a good five, six weeks where I couldn’t really move around too much. I had a little scooter to move around. It was not fun.”
The 38-year-old broke his left ankle lunging for a grounder in the AL championship series opener against Detroit on Oct. 1, and had surgery a week later. He could start running on a field in the next couple days and expects to be ready for opening day against Boston on April 1.
“Why wouldn’t it be realistic?” Jeter said. “I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Opening day, yeah, it’s been a goal all along.”
Wearing jeans and a dark shirt, Jeter met with reporters in the pavilion behind the third-base stands at Steinbrenner Field.
“I don’t want to make it seem more dramatic than it is, but you’ve got to learn to walk again,” Jeter said.
Jeter had a resurgent season, leading the American League with 216 hits and batting .316 with 15 homers and 58 RBIs. He first injured his ankle in mid-September and then fouled balls off his foot several times after that.
“I hurt it, I continued to play on it probably when I shouldn’t have,” Jeter said. “Initially a bone bruise that progressed from there. Eventually, it turned into a stress fracture and broke. I was told I was able to play, so I played. Unfortunately it broke, but I’d do the same thing over again if I had to.”
He remembered trying to glove Jhonny Peralta’s 12th-inning grounder up the middle as the Yankees tried to keep the score tied after they rallied for four runs in the ninth.
“I wasn’t making any awkward movements,” Jeter said. “It was just a couple steps to my left, but it already developed into a stress fracture. So, if it didn’t happen on that particular play, it would have happened eventually anyway. So, it’s just the point where it broke.”
Jeter says the ankle has healed, and that the challenge is to get back into baseball shape.
“I’m going to have to push myself,” Jeter said. “From inactivity, it’s going to be a while to get the rest of your body in shape. But in terms of the ankle, I’m not concerned with that at all.”
A plate and screws placed into the ankle during surgery.
“I guess you can take them out, if you really want to take them out, but I’ve been told there’s no need to take them out, so they’re going to stay,” Jeter said. “Range of motion, I pretty much have it all back now.”
The 13-time All-Star thinks he will play in his first exhibition game in a few weeks. Manager Joe Girardi said Jeter will likely DH in his initial spring training games.
“I think he’s going to do everything he can to play opening day, that’s who he is,” Girardi said. “We’re just going to have to watch and see how he progresses. But knowing Derek, I feel like he’ll be ready.”
The Yankees’ first full squad workout is Monday. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez is not with the team as he continues a rehab program after hip surgery in New York.
“It’s going to be odd that’s he not here,” Jeter said.
Notes: LHP CC Sabathia (left elbow bone spur surgery) felt fine one day after his first bullpen session. … Girardi said Travis Hafner will strictly be a DH. “People that need a first baseman’s glove call me,” Hafner said with a smile. … 1B Mark Teixeira, who often struggles offensively in April, expects that playing for the United States in the World Baseball Classic will help. “Absolutely,” Teixeira said. “I think it will be good.” … Minor league reliever Mark Montgomery was scratched from his batting practice session because of back stiffness. … Minor league INF David Adams also has back problems.