NEW YORK — Derek Jeter was not going to take it easy, not after spending 91 agonizing games sidelined with a broken ankle. That’s not Jeter.
At 39 years old, the New York Yankees captain might not have been ready to return to the team at his desired level of play.
In his first game this season, Jeter strained his right quadriceps in his third at-bat Thursday. He will now miss the weekend series against Minnesota, and New York will not rule out a return to the disabled list.
“It’s frustrating. I don’t know what else you want me to say,” Jeter said in a statement Friday. “I worked hard to get to the point of rejoining the team yesterday. It’s not how you draw it up, but hopefully I’ll be back out there soon and help this team win some games.”
After just four rehabilitation games, the Yankees pushed up the star shortstop’s return a day when Brett Gardner and Travis Hafner got hurt Wednesday night. Jeter had been telling the team he was ready to return, and general manager Brian Cashman said reports from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre were positive.
So Jeter returned to a huge ovation and beat out an infield hit in his first at-bat. He also scored a run and had an RBI on a groundout that ended in a close play at first. He was pinch hit for in the eighth inning.
“The way the game unraveled in his first two at-bats, they were go get’em situations and Derek’s going to do everything he can to succeed, and his body said not yet,” Cashman said. “Is that because of his age or more so maybe what he’s coming back from? …It’s hard to say.”
Either way, Jeter is out again. An MRI showed a grade one strain.
Jeter, of course, was against going straight to the disabled list. The plan is to keep the shortstop out for the three-game series against the Twins, and then he’ll have four days for the All-Star break to receive further treatment before the Yankees reevaluate. After the break, they start a series at Boston on July 19.
“We’ll have to give it some time and see how he responds,” said Cashman, who said Jeter’s ankle was fine.
Cashman wouldn’t blame age as a factor for Jeter’s latest injury: “I don’t want to say it’s Father Time knocking on his door.”
But manager Joe Girardi was realistic about how he uses the Yankees all-time hits leader.
“I don’t think it’s a guy that you can run out there 40, 50 days in a row like you used to,” Girardi said. “You’re going to have to manage that.”
In a season full makeshift lineups because of absent former All-Stars, the Yankees appear to have been sankebit twice.
Call it DL 2.0.
Jeter joins Mark Teixeira (wrist surgery), outfielder Curtis Granderson (broken pinkie) and catcher Francisco Cervelli (broken hand), who’ve been hurt and then had setbacks or second injuries.
Teixeira returned briefly before season-ending surgery. Cervelli developed a stress reaction and is shut down for now. Granderson, who broke his forearm in his first at-bat in spring training only to be hit again after eight games back, was just cleared Thursday to take dry swings, Cashman said.
Alex Rodriguez (hip surgery) was due to play seven innings for Class-A Tampa on Friday night. He’s just 2 for 15 in his rehab assignment with one RBI.
Cashman was eager to get his stars back but with all the setbacks and uncertainty, he can expect to explore trades as the deadline approaches July 31.
“When they’re healthy they’re getting plugged in,” Cashman said. “And we’ll be willing to sink or swim with them but don’t misunderstand that we’re not going to try to reinforce other aspects when we can, if we can. But we really do look forward to getting those guys back.”
Either way, Girardi thinks the team, which is 50-42 despite all the missed time, will do just fine.
“This group has been pretty good about moving on,” he said.