Derek Jeter returns to New York Yankees as DH on Thursday, ready or not

David Brown
Big League Stew

Eight months after ankle surgery, and three months after a setback, New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter is returning to the major leagues. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports staked out the transaction wire and reports that the Yankees will activate Jeter and play him at shortstop or designated hitter Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium against the Kansas City Royals. Bet you a million spacebucks he plays short.

UPDATE: I owe you all a million spacebucks. Jack Curry of the YES Network says Jeter is DHing and batting second. Don't spend them all in one place.

Jeter turned 39 years old in June and joined Class AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a four-game rehab assignment recently, going 1 for 9 with four walks. Sweeny Murti of WFAN watched Jeter complete his assignment Wednesday and the results were shaky:

That doesn't seem ready — but really it depends on what the question is. The litmus test for the Yankees must be, "Is Jeter physically able to handle playing in the majors?" and not, "Is he ready to be classic Derek Jeter again?" That guy might be/is probably gone forever. But some form of Jeter still might be able to help the Yankees.

And they need help, especially at the moment — with Brett Gardner and Travis Hafner out of the lineup because of injuries — manager Joe Girardi said:

The Yanks have compiled a 49-42 record without Jeter and they've struggled to score runs as a partial consequence of him being missing. New York's production from its replacement shortstops has been particularly anemic. Jeter had been planning on returning in time for opening day, but in April doctors found a crack in his left ankle, which already had been surgically repaired in October during the AL playoffs when Jeter gruesomely got injured against the Detroit Tigers.

A well-above average hitter for most of his 18 major league seasons, Jeter has flickered a bit in recent years, but still managed to bat .316/.362/.429 with 15 home runs in 2012. His defense, particularly his range, has never been great, but if he put up career averages at the plate it would be a huge boost to the Yankees, who are 12th of 15 AL teams in runs scored.

Just look at this enthusiasm!

Jeter simply showing up is inspirational, but he'll also have to play well for the Yankees to get any real traction for a playoff push. Jeter, and a few others. They still lack Alex Rodriguez, who is making his way up the rehab ladder, along with Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira — who is out for the season.

The Yankees have reached the postseason 17 times since Jeter came to the majors 18 years ago. Might as well try to make it 18 out of 19 with the Captain finally back on board. Ready or not.

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