Doubts on Derek's return?

Not exactly, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi did raise the possibility Thursday that it might be overly optimistic to expect Derek Jeter, recovering from a broken ankle, to be ready by Opening Day 2013.

"He's still basically non-weight-bearing, I believe, so, I really believe it might be a little push (to be ready for the season opener)," Girardi said at Yankee Stadium in between assembling care packages of food and other goodies to be sent to U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan over the holidays. "But I believe he'll find a way to get ready for the season."

Jeter suffered the injury in the 12th inning of Game 1 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, and originally was believed not to need surgery and to require no more than three months' recovery time, which would have had him ready to resume baseball activities in mid-January.

But after consulting with a foot and ankle specialist, Jeter wound up having an operation to set the fracture, and his recovery time was lengthened to four to five months, which puts him into March.

Pressed to explain why he now thought an Opening Day return for Jeter -- who will turn 39 in June -- might be unrealistic, Girardi said, "Well, just because of the rehab and you have to get the full strength and maybe you're not able to start doing the things you normally would in January. So I think there's a little bit of a question, but I think he'll find a way, because he always has. That's who he is."

Girardi said he had spoken to Jeter "a little bit" since the end of the season and characterized the shortstop's mood as "OK."

"You spend all year long playing and you look forward to the offseason to be able to relax and do some of the things you want to do," Girardi said. "And he's not going to have that this year because he's going to have a lot of rehab. So I'm sure from that standpoint it's a little bit frustrating, but Derek always finds a way to deal with what he's going through."

A phone call to Jeter's agent, Casey Close, seeking comment was not immediately returned.