Derek Jeter plays DH in minors game

TAMPA, Fla. -- Derek Jeter took four at-bats as a designated hitter for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, and even though he grounded out all four times, he viewed the day as a positive step in his road back from a broken ankle.

"It was really just to see pitches, you know?" Jeter said. "The results aren't the most important thing. It's just to see pitches, and that's what I did and we'll move from there. Sometimes it clicks early, sometimes it takes longer. I don't think there's necessarily a certain recipe for it. But at least seeing the ball good."

Jeter grounded out three times to third base, and once to first, but when the ball handcuffed the first baseman for the Indianapolis Indians, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Triple-A team, it caromed off the second baseman, who completed an unusual 3-4-1 to retire Jeter, who was running down the line at about three-quarter speed.

"I was being a little cautious because the field was wet," Jeter said. "I almost wiped out a couple of times out of the box. But, yeah, (running at full speed is) something I have to build up to."

Jeter's recovery from a broken ankle suffered in last year's ALCS, and subsequent surgery to repair it, was proceeding smoothly until Tuesday, when he was scratched from the lineup just before a game between the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies due to soreness and stiffness in an area near the break.

Tests revealed only minor inflammation and Jeter had a cortisone shot the next day, but the Yankees decided Jeter will play only in minor league games for the rest of training camp to allow them the option of placing him on the disabled list and backdating it to March 22, minimizing the number of regular season games he would miss. If Jeter cannot go, Eduardo Nunez will be the Yankees' opening day shortstop.

No decision has been made on whether Jeter will start the season on the DL -- it last happened in 2001 when he pulled a quadriceps late in spring training -- and Jeter continues to hold out hope that he will be ready to go when the Yankees open their season at home against the Boston Red Sox on April 1.

Asked if he still thought there was enough time for him to get ready for Opening Day, Jeter said, "Yep. I still think I'm going to be ready. We'll take it day by day and see what happens."

Jeter said he hoped to play the field in a minor league game either Sunday or Monday.