In fact, general manager Brian Cashman acknowledged the possibility that Jeter, who broke the ankle in October in the American League Championship Series and needed surgery to help mend it, could begin the season on the disabled list.
"I can't rule it out until we see how the next 10 days goes," Cashman said Wednesday afternoon at George Steinbrenner Field. "I'm not saying he's going on the DL, but I can't tell he won't be. We've got to do what's right for him and what's right for the team."
In Jeter's absence, Eduardo Nunez will be the Yankees' starting shortstop.
"There's a reason Joe Girardi played Nunez at shortstop the entire spring," Cashman said. "I'm not OK with him being an every-day outfielder or third baseman, but I've always preached that if you're going to run him out on an every-day basis, shortstop's the spot."
Jeter was a late scratch from Tuesday's game against the Phillies in Clearwater after reporting stiffness in the front of the ankle during pregame drills. He was sent to a doctor Tuesday afternoon, who ordered X-rays, which came back negative, and an MRI, which revealed "mild inflammation" in the ankle.
After further consultations Wednesday morning, including a conversation with Dr. Robert Anderson, the Charlotte, N.C., foot specialist who performed the surgery, it was decided to inject Jeter with cortisone, an anti-inflammatory that generally takes several days to have an effect.
"Let the shot take its course and see where he's at over the next few days," Cashman said. "After we get a feel for how he's feeling, then we'll start him up and get him going again. I can't tell you when that's going to be."
Cashman said the timing of the setback more than its severity was the biggest reason why Jeter might not be able to play when the Yankees open the regular season at home against the Boston Red Sox on April 1.
"I think if you asked him, Opening Day would be a certainty," Cashman said. "But in fairness, I think I don't know yet. I don't think it's anything serious, but there is a timing issue. Because of the time frame and everything else, I can't tell you it's not possible he might not be ready. I'm sure he wouldn't be happy with anybody reading that, but I can't not acknowledge the obvious."
Jeter has played just 13 innings spread out over three games and has yet to play more than five innings in any one of them. He has also had four at-bats as a DH. His spring average is .273 (3-for-11), including a double and a single on the first pitch he saw this spring in a game on March 10.
Manager Joe Girardi had planned to play Jeter in back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday this week, but Jeter never made it into the first one when, after having difficulty loosening up before the game, he reported stiffness in the front of his ankle to team trainer Steve Donohue, who passed the information to Girardi.
Jeter was scratched about an hour before first pitch, a move Jeter called a ''joint decision."
"I'm not concerned because I was told this was going to happen," Jeter said Tuesday. "From everything I was told by the doctors, this is normal. It's just stiff, just stiffness. It's not in the area I broke. I've had a lot of good days. This is just something that happened today. I don't think it's a setback."
But Wednesday's developments indicate the discomfort is more severe than Jeter has admitted.
"This particular player isn't the easiest one because he plays through everything and tolerates it all," Cashman said. "He's not necessarily the most vocal about it."
Cashman said it would not surprise him if Jeter, whose determination to play is well-known, bounced back quickly.
"You just assume everything is going to be great because he's just always found a way," Cashman said. "I hate to say it, but you take it for granted. That's what makes him tick, and that's our whole experience with him. That's the entire aura of Derek Jeter. I wouldn't think he's a player for a few days, but we'll have to see how he's responding. Hell, he could come here [tomorrow] doing the jig. This guy's ridiculous."