Manager Joe Girardi said on Friday that Jeter was likely to need close to a "full spring training reset" once he is cleared to begin playing games again. Jeter, who remained behind in Tampa to rehabilitate his surgically repaired left ankle, currently has no timetable to return to baseball activities.
"I think our hope is to get him out on the field soon," Girardi said before the Yankees' game against the Detroit Tigers on Friday afternoon. Asked whether that meant Jeter would need a full six weeks of training camp before returning to action, Girardi said he didn't think it would be quite that long. But he also acknowledged that it will not be a quick process.
"I don't think you could say it's going to be playing three or four games and he'll be back. He's going to have to go through somewhat of a spring training," Girardi said. "Position players always tell you they don't need six weeks. Pitchers do. How many weeks he needs, I think it depends on how he bounces back each day when he goes out and plays."
The Yankees are likely to want to see Jeter put in at least a full week of nine-inning games, most of them at shortstop, and bounce back ready to play before adding him to the roster. In his absence, Eduardo Nunez is the Yankees' starting shortstop. He is hitting .400 (4-for-10) over the first three games of the season.
Asked when he expected Jeter to rejoin the team, Girardi said, "I have not thrown out a date. My date is, Derek will be ready when he's ready."
Jeter has not been in a game since March 23, when he took four at-bats as the designated hitter in a minor league game and came back the next morning complaining of stiffness and soreness in the ankle he fractured at Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers last October.
Although the club and Jeter's stated hope was that he would be ready to play by Opening Day, that setback caused the Yankees to place the 38-year-old shortstop on the disabled list retroactive to March 22, in the hope he could be reactivated by April 6.
That date will also go by the wayside as Jeter's recovery drags on longer than anyone expected.
"I know he was so geared on being here Opening Day that he had to work really hard to get to that point and just wasn't quite ready, so I'm not necessarily surprised," Girardi said. "Our hope was he would be here Opening Day, and it just didn't work out. I think they're spending some time strengthening it more, so hopefully the next time he goes out on the field he doesn't go through the same thing."
Jeter appeared in just five spring training games for the Yankees, two as a DH and three at shortstop. He appeared in back-to-back games only once, playing five innings one day and four the next, followed by two days off, but still had to be scratched before the next game after reporting soreness in the ankle.
He was given a cortisone shot, which was said to provide "immediate relief," but three days later came up too sore to play again following his appearance in the minor league game. He was then shut down indefinitely.
Since then, Jeter has been limited to playing catch and doing strengthening exercises. He has not run or taken part in fielding or hitting drills.
Girardi said that the durability Jeter has shown over his 17 big league seasons probably contributed to unrealistic expectations for his return from a serious injury less than six months after major surgery that included the insertion of screws and a metal plate to help mend the break.
"It's an injury that he's never went through and probably didn't know what to expect," Girardi said. "He's so used to being able to say, 'I'm going to be out there in so many days.' It just wasn't the case this time."