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Jeter ready to play

TAMPA, Fla. -- Remember when Derek Jeter was going to relax and enjoy his final spring training?

Well, that was last week. Jeter is on the verge of playing his first game of the spring, which means the time for fun and games is over.

It was a decidedly less-chatty Jeter who spoke to the media this morning in the home clubhouse at The Boss before the team -- minus Jeter, Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano and a bunch of others -- left for Bradenton to play the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Captain was in no mood to entertain questions about his ankle, his injury-marred 2013 season, or whether or not he is concerned about how his soon-to-be 40 year old body will hold up this spring.

"Well, you guys keep asking me about it, so yeah, it’s kinda hard not to think about it," Jeter said. "I’m looking forward to getting out there. I think everyone is. When spring training starts, you look forward to getting the games underway so you can get into a routine. The first few days of spring training you’re just going through a lot of drills trying to get in shape, you know, baseball shape I should say. But once the games start you get into a routine so I’m looking forward to that."

Asked if he could recall the last time he took the field feeling really healthy, Jeter said, "It doesn't matter. I feel good now."

Jeter did acknowledge, however, that there were days last year, both in the spring and during the regular season, when he felt good going into a game but not so much after coming out.

"But it’s different," he said. "Last spring I was in the training room every day. This year I'm here to play."

Jeter is expected to be in the starting lineup, playing shortstop and hitting second, when the Yankees play their first home exhibition game of the spring against the Pirates Thursday at 1:05 p.m. Joe Girardi said he is treating this as "a normal spring training" for Jeter, meaning the captain will probably play four innings, as Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann did in today's 6-5 loss to the Pirates in Bradenton.

Girardi has also said Jeter will be on "the Mariano Rivera program," which means a limited workload for most of the spring, few if any road trips and for now anyway, no back-to-back games. "And if I have to back off, I'll back off," Girardi said. "But right now the plan is to run it like a normal spring training."

The manager said he was curious to see how Jeter will do in his first game back. "The good thing for us is that everything he’s done has been good and has been positive," he said. "I thought so last year, too, but then I saw him run. I’ve seen nothing but positive things in his running now."

Jeter was asked if he still harbored any lingering doubts about his ability to, for example, leg out a double or score from second on a single. “Are you guys trying to make me wonder? Because I keep getting questions asked about it," he said. "No. Not at all. I’ve done my work. I feel like I’m ready to go."

Jeter will face Pirates righthander Charlie Morton. David Phelps is going for the Yankees.