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It was a sight New York Yankees fans have not seen since Oct. 13: Derek Jeter, in uniform, on the field at Yankee Stadium, throwing a baseball.
It was only a light game of catch with a member of the team support staff during batting practice before Wednesday night's game with the New York Mets, and his return to action is still weeks, and likely months away.
But the last time Jeter was on this field, suited up and engaged in baseball activity, he wound up leaving on the shoulders of his manager and a team trainer, his left ankle broken and his future a giant question mark. That question has yet to be answered but at least Jeter is on his feet again and taking steps in the right direction leading back to the Yankees at some point in the second half of the season.
Jeter said he will be examined by the doctor who performed surgery to repair the original break last October "in the next week and a half,'' and hopes to be cleared to increase the intensity of his workouts. But after having been disappointed by failing to make his projected Opening-Day return, Jeter refused to guess when he might return this time.
"As soon as possible. That's it,'' he said. "I'm not going to put a date on it. The last time I put a date on it, it didn't work. So as soon as I can play, I'll play.''
Jeter had his ankle, which suffered a new fracture while rehabbing the original one in spring training, removed from a walking boot last Friday. Jeter said his brief catch with Anthony Flynn, the Yankees' video coordinator, was the first time he had thrown a ball since being shut down March 24, the day after he had taken four at-bats as a designated hitter in a minor league game in Tampa.
Jeter said he still does not know how or when he re-injured the ankle.
"It was just a freak incident, I guess, that caused it to break again,'' he said. "I don't know why, and I don't think anyone knows why. If I had to guess, it would probably be when I didn't play in that game in Clearwater. I don't just come out of games and not play because it feels stiff.''
Jeter said he's still taking things slowly.
"I still can't run or anything like that,'' he said. "I got to stay away from impact. I can't run or jump until I get the clearance.''
Jeter said he would undergo a CT scan to determine how the new injury is progressing.
"I feel good, but you can't fake out a CT scan,'' he said. "As soon as I get the final clearance, I'll be good to go.''
Jeter insisted he would not need a full six-week spring training to get ready for the season once he is cleared by doctors.
He has been back to Yankee Stadium this season, and was with the team for its past two homestands. He has watched the team closely, and said he was not surprised by how well the Yankees have played despite the rash of injuries that has caused wholesale turnover in their roster.
"I told you in spring training this team would be good,'' he said. "I told all you guys before. Everyone said, 'Oh, you're not going to hit home runs,' and 'How you gonna replace this guy and that guy?' If you play good, you're going to win games. Our team's been playing good and our pitching staff has done a good job.''
Jeter said his new injury would not cause him to proceed any more cautiously than he did in spring training once he is cleared to resume workouts.
"I think I've gotten more patient as I've gotten older, but I'm still not patient. It's a character flaw,'' he said. "I thought I'd be back a long time ago. So my patience is ... I'm almost about out of patience.''
Still, Jeter said he would abide by whatever training program the team doctors put in place for him.
"I'll do exactly what I'm told to do, just like last time, and hopefully, there's no setbacks,'' he said. "But it's frustrating. It's something I never had to deal with before. It's been frustrating and kind of an odd year for me so far.''