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Derek Jeter relieved to finally complete his road back to the Bronx

Despite quad tightness, Yankees captain feels ready to contribute
07/11/2013 5:35 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Derek Jeter addressed the media after his season debut on Thursday.(AP)
Depending on which side of the half-full glass you look at, you can choose your Yankees news item for the day: either Derek Jeter was 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored in his 2013 debut, or he was once again headed for an MRI tube after leaving Thursday’s game with quad tightness.

Either way, the bottom line is that The Captain was back, and, until the quad tightness kicked in, having what he termed a “good” debut.

“We’ll see what the MRI says and I hope it comes out good,” Jeter said, “(but before that) I felt fine; I thought I was moving good, went first-to-third and ran out a couple ground balls, so everything was good. We’ll see.”

Jeter initially said he thought he would be returning on Friday for the first game of a series with the Twins, but as Joe Girardi and several others alluded to throughout the day, circumstances forced that activation a day earlier than expected.

“Our original plan wasn’t necessarily to bring him back today, but we got a couple of guys who got beat up yesterday, so we felt if he was going to play in Triple-A today he could play here today,” Girardi said in his post-game press conference on Thursday.

And as Jeter noted, that was just fine with him.

“I thought I was coming up Friday, so when I spoke after (Wednesday’s game in Scranton), I thought I was playing in Scranton (Thursday), but Brian Cashman left me a message and said I was coming here,” Jeter said. “I wanted to be here, so I was happy, but I didn’t know what happened in our game.”

And, as Jeter will always tell you, he felt he was ready to go well before even that phone call.

“I always feel like I’m ready to go out and play at this level, but like I’ve said, I understood the fact that I had to go out and play games, since it had been nine months,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot of at-bats in simulated games, which I know is different, and I got four games in Scranton, so I felt as though I was ready.”

And so, that call began a whirlwind 14 hours or so, a span that saw Jeter pack up his life in Scranton and return to the Bronx. The Captain said he got back to New York around 3 a.m., fell asleep an hour later and was up at 6:30, so he didn’t even really have time to think about the situation.

But, he did know one thing that would happen sometime in the 1 p.m. hour Thursday afternoon.

“I was thinking about that I was going to swing at the first pitch,” Jeter said. “I made my mind up yesterday I was going to do that, so that’s all I was thinking about.”

He did just that, hitting a chopper down the third base line that Miguel Tejada bobbled; it was ruled a base hit, the 3,305th of Jeter’s career, and it gave everyone a chance to see what Jeter already knew – that he could still do everything he has always done

“I did everything in rehab, ran out ground balls … so today was nothing different,” he said. “I’ve run hard plenty in the last three weeks.”

From there the Captain went first-to-third on Robinson Cano’s single and scored on a sac fly by Vernon Wells – all the while never thinking anything about the injuries that kept him out for nine months, nor the fact that at 39 everyone seems to have expected him to be worried about another setback.

“I can’t really worry about it. The second time it broke was a fluke thing; I was 100 percent healed, and it cracked again, but I’m ready to go,” Jeter said. “It’s kind of hard to play a game thinking about what may happen. My ankle broke, and I don’t think it was because I was 38, it was because I played on something maybe I shouldn’t have. We’re all getting older here, but age doesn’t creep into my mind when I’m playing.”

From there, Jeter went first-to-third on Robinson Cano’s single and scored on Vernon Wells’ sacrifice fly, and once he crossed the plate, the beginning of the most anticipated comeback tour in years was officially underway.

“I couldn’t wait; ever since I got hurt in October, I was thinking about getting back on the field and the first at-bat,” Jeter said. “That’s what I worked extremely hard for and did all the rehab for; rehab isn’t fun, but the reason I did it is to get back out on the field.”

And, as he noted, being able to do that at Yankee Stadium was icing on the cake.

“No disrespect to anywhere you do a rehab assignment, but this is Yankee Stadium,” he said. “I was nervous before the game, because it felt like Opening Day even though we’re in July. But the fans were great, and it felt good to be out there.”

Of course, the news that he left the game after four at-bats with a tight quad and was headed for an MRI put a damper on things somewhat, but as always, Jeter is optimistic and doesn’t believe coming back a day sooner than expected had anything to do with the quad issue.

“I’ve been running all over the place for the last three weeks so I don’t think it has anything to do with (pushing too hard); you can’t trick the tests, so we’ll see what that says,” Jeter said. “Last year I had one and it was a bone bruise, and I went out and played because I always play. But now we’ll get an MRI, and if it’s all good, I’ll play.”

And whether his next appearance comes Friday, this weekend, or after the All-Star break, Jeter had a simple summation of what he expects from himself and what fans can expect from him going forward.

“I expect the same thing I expect every year: to help this team win games. That’s what you play for.”

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