Derek Jeter (ankle) out of lineup

Updated: March 19, 2013, 7:55 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Derek Jeter was a late scratch from the Yankees' lineup Tuesday with what manager Joe Girardi called a"cranky'' left ankle.

Jeter broke the ankle in October and underwent surgery for the insertion of a metal plate and screws to mend the injury. His spring training had proceeded essentially without incident until now, raising concerns the 38-year-old shortstop might not be ready for Opening Day.

"It's something I told you I've had some concern over,'' Girardi said. "Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope it's only a day or two.''

Jeter had taken batting practice and gone through most of his pregame drills before the scheduled 1:05 p.m. game with the Phillies, but after he retired to the clubhouse, trainer Steve Donohue emerged and hurried over to Girardi, who then called the Yankees' beat writers over.

"Jeet's ankle's a little cranky today,'' he said.

Girardi said he had exchanged texts with Jeter on Tuesday morning to be sure he felt OK to play -- Jeter generally does not make spring training road trips -- and Jeter responded that he was fine.

"For precautionary reasons, I'm not playing," Jeter said. "I'm not concerned because I was told this was going to happen. From everything I was told by the doctors, this is normal.''

Earlier Tuesday, Jeter was seen by Dr. Daniel Murphy. Precautionary X-rays were negative and an MRI found mild inflammation of the ankle. Jeter is listed as day to day.

Jeter described the problem as stiffness in the front of his ankle.

"It's not in the area I broke," Jeter said. "I was told, 'You're going to feel it, not necessarily in the ankle but around the ankle.' It's normal. You got to deal with it and move on. lf I wasn't told, I'd be concerned.''

Jeter said the decision to scratch him was "a joint decision'' and when asked whether he would be playing if this were a regular-season game, said, "What do you think?"

He admitted to being frustrated by the latest development, "Of course I am,'' he said. "I was frustrated when I couldn't walk, frustrated when I couldn't run, frustrated when I couldn't play today, but it's all part of the rehab process. I'll play again as soon as I can. If I can play tomorrow, I'll play tomorrow. If it's the next day, it's the next day."

The manager said he noticed Jeter flexing his ankle during pregame drills.

"You watch people's moves, and I saw he was stretching it a lot today,'' Girardi said. "For whatever reason, it didn't loosen up.''

It is rare for Jeter to admit to an injury -- he played for weeks with a deep bone bruise on the same ankle until it eventually snapped under him in the 12th inning of Game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers -- and Tuesday's news was especially surprising for several reasons.

For one, Jeter had not played since Saturday and had a day off, along with the rest of the team, on Monday. For another, in the Yankees' clubhouse in Tampa earlier Tuesday morning, Jeter seemed pleased with the progress he has made this spring.

"I stopped worrying about my ankle ever since I was told it's completely healed,'' he said. "I've been told not to worry about anything else that's around it. So that's comforting. Now it's just a matter of playing and getting through some of the soreness that you have.''

Jeter has played in five games since being cleared by the doctors and is hitting .273 this spring, with three hits, one a hard-hit double, in 11 at-bats. He has not displayed any problems with movement in the field or on the bases, although he was coy this morning when asked whether he was running at full speed yet.

"I will,'' he said."We've still got two weeks.''

He also joked that he was running at "67 percent'' right now.

"There's days where you feel stuff, but not in the area where I broke it,'' Jeter said. "It's kind of hard to gauge it because in the beginning of spring training, you have normal soreness everywhere. It's kind of hard to say what's normal, what's not normal. Obviously things that are around that area, I normally don't feel in terms of regular spring training, but everything is as expected in terms of what I've been told.''

Earlier in the day, Girardi had raised the possibility that Jeter might start the season as his designated hitter on Opening Day. But his subsequent setback raises questions about whether he will be ready to play at all on April 1, when the Yankees host the Boston Red Sox.

Asked whether Jeter would not be forced to slow down his rehab schedule with just 10 days of training camp left, Girardi said, "I don't know. We might have to. That's why I keep saying it's day by day with him. He might come in tomorrow and feel great. He'll say he feels great, anyway.''

Gil Velazquez replaced Jeter at shortstop and in the No. 2 hole in the Yankees' lineup.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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