- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter still is trying to rehabilitate his injured ankle and is not close to appearing in rehab games, making a return in early May a remote possibility at best.
After taking the weekend off to rest his ankle, Jeter has lightened his workload in Tampa as he tries to manage his recovery.
The New York Yankees have said when Jeter is finally ready to play in games, he will need close to a full spring training before he will be prepared to return to the majors.
Jeter needed surgery on the left ankle after fracturing it in Game 1 of the ALCS last October, but the Yankees originally thought the star shortstop would be ready for Opening Day. Early May had been targeted as a possible return period, although the Yankees never publicly set that as a benchmark.
"[Early May] was a date that was thrown out there," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The easiest way for me to say it is he will be back when he is back -- when he can physically do it on an everyday basis, and I don't think any of us will know the exact date until we go through some trial and error.
"He is not ready to play in games. I don't think they necessarily have an exact date where they know he is going to play in games. We'll just go day by day and see how he feels."
Earlier in April, Girardi said Jeter would need close to a "full spring training reset." Jeter took this past weekend off to rest the ankle for what Yankees general manager Brian Cashman called a scheduled break.
Jeter fielded 45 grounders on Friday but decreased that workload to 21 on Monday, an observer in Tampa told ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews.
"Sometimes you can take too many ground balls," Girardi said. "They talked about lessening that load just because he was taking so many. Derek is such a creature of habit. To get him to break a cycle sometimes is difficult. He is going to want to do as much as he can as soon as he can, so we are just trying to make sure we don't go too fast. But there was no setback."
The Yankees have limited the information on Jeter, trying to reduce expectations. As of Tuesday, Jeter is not prepared to move past the stage of taking infield and batting practice.
"Just continue to do ground balls and more running and make sure he can do everything before he gets in a game," Girardi said of the immediate plan.
Since the beginning of spring training, Jeter has yet to play a full nine innings. He last played in an exhibition on March 23 in five innings.
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