Derek Jeter may return early next week

Derek Jeter's quest for his 3,000th hit could resume as soon as Monday when the Yankees open a three-game series against the Indians in Cleveland.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Jeter "had another good day" in his rehabilitation from a strained right calf suffered in a game against the Indians at Yankee Stadium on June 13.

"He did full-bore baserunning today, and full defense with lateral movement, so he got tested pretty good," Cashman said before Wednesday night's Yankees-Milwaukee Brewers game. "We'll repeat that and see how he feels tomorrow. If all goes well, we could be looking at a rehab assignment as early as Saturday."

If Jeter comes through Thursday's drills OK, the plan is for him to play at least two games for the AA Trenton Thunder over the weekend wth an eye toward having him rejoin the Yankees on their trip to Cleveland, which begins July 4 -- the late George Steinbrenner's birthday.

Cashman ruled out a return any earlier than that, meaning Jeter will not resume his pursuit of the hit milestone this weekend against the Mets at CitiField. "But maybe Cleveland," Cashman said. "First we've got to see how he drills tomorrow. Let's see how the next few days go. Then let's get him into a rehab setting and see how that goes. Then you start talking about what series could he be plugged into. Maybe at some point during the Cleveland series. Maybe."

Jeter injured himself leaving the batter's box in the fifth inning of a game on June 13 just six hits shy of the 3,000 plateau. In his absence, the Yankees have won 11 of 14 games, moved from 2½ games back of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East to 2½ games in front, and Jeter's replacements -- Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher in the leadoff spot and Eduardo Nunez at shortstop -- have performed more than capably.

Entering Wednesday, Gardner had batted .286 with a .390 on-base percentage in nine games as the leadoff hitter. In four games atop the lineup, Swisher had hit .307 and had a whopping .526 OBP. At the time of his injury, Jeter was hitting .260 with a .324 OBP.

But Cashman said the performance of the team would have no bearing on when the Yankees would recall Jeter.

"We never deal with that," Cashman said. "Our pitching's doing well but we're looking forward to getting (Bartolo) Colon and (Phil) Hughes back into this thing. We let the player's health dictate when they're ready, not how we're doing."

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.