Derek Jeter talks to Joe Girardi before Tuesday's Grapefruit League game. (USA Today)Despite his Tuesday MRI showing only mild inflammation in his ailing left ankle, there's a possibility Derek Jeter could miss opening day and beyond as he attempts to return from breaking the ankle in Game 1 of the ALCS last October. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman admitted as much on Wednesday after the 13-time All-Star received a cortisone shot to help ease lingering stiffness and general discomfort.
''We've got to do what's right for him,'' Cashman said. ''Whatever's right for him will be right for us. I'm not saying he's going to be DLed, but I can't tell you it won't be. I don't think it's anything serious, I just think it's a timing issue.''
Wednesday marks exactly five months since his surgery to repair the ankle, which was the high number on the original timetable for his recovery. To this point he has been ahead of that schedule, but perhaps he's pushed it a little too hard over the past week to maintain his pace and meet the requirements needed to declare himself ready for April 1.
''We've got to be in a position where he plays a full nine innings of defense, and be able to do back to back (games) and all this other stuff,'' Cashman said. ''We'll see how he responds, but I can't give you certainty now that what he's just experienced isn't going to push it back a little bit.''
As Cashman mentioned, this is certainly a timing issue, but it may prove to be a pain tolerance issue as well if Jeter hopes to be on that lineup card. And not that Yankees fans need to be reminded, but if Jeter can't make it back he would join fellow All-Stars Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson on the sideline. In fact, the only regular remaining in the infield at that point would be second baseman Robinson Cano. Veteran Eduardo Nunez would take over at shortstop in Jeter's absence.
The good news, I suppose, is that Cano is on the short list of hitters who can carry an offense on his back for stretches during a season. The bad news, of course, is that he's never needed to do it alone or had any real pressure on him like he would experience under these circumstances.
And needless to say, a slow start like last April (one homer, four RBIs) wouldn't be an option if the Yankees hope to avoid digging a substantial hole during the season's opening month.
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