Derek Jeter has now played a couple of games at DH and is beginning to get his baseball legs back. During pregame warm-ups, he looked more at ease trotting around the bases (although he was just trotting) and fielding ground balls. The next step will be Wednesday, when Jeter is expected to reprise his role as shortstop. Jeter has still not put the pedal to the floor when running the bases, but that's to be expected.
Despite receiving confirmation from his surgeon that the bone in his ankle had completely healed and he was clear to return to all activities, Jeter still has to adjust to those activities. It's worth pointing out that after the extended period of inactivity -- which includes two months of being off the foot after surgery followed by another two months of being protected -- the ankle develops considerable weakness. In other words, the bone may be back to normal, but everything around it is continuing to strengthen. After the basics of rehab are complete, the only thing left to train is high-level sports activity, and the only way to train is to participate in the activity itself.
So Jeter is back to baseball, but it will be some time before he is really back. Noted foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson, who performed Jeter's surgery, says that beyond the typical six-month recovery (return to activity) for this type of injury, it often takes athletes another 12 weeks to get comfortable performing all their high-level skills. In Jeter's case, this includes rounding the bases sharply and quickly as well as reacting defensively to field balls and to turn and make sharp throws. He is clearly using these early spring games as a means of getting comfortable again with his ankle, which is an integral part of the normal rehab process. Jeter has made it clear that his goal is to be ready for Opening Day, but even if he is playing shortstop then, he may still be a couple of months away from looking like his former self.
Furcal set for surgery
St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal was headed to visit Dr. James Andrews when I visited their spring training. Now Furcal is scheduled to have surgery this week to reconstruct his ulnar collateral ligament, with Andrews expected to perform the surgery. The rehab time for a position player is shorter than for a pitcher (approximately six to nine months) and Furcal should be ready to go by this time next year, although where he will be remains a question (Furcal is a free agent after this season). The most recent comparable example of a shortstop returning following this procedure is the Cincinnati Reds' Zack Cozart, who injured his elbow acutely via a hyperextension mechanism in 2011 and ultimately required surgery. He returned in 2012 and had no issues with the elbow.