Derek Jeter: 'It's disappointing'

TAMPA, Fla. -- Derek Jeter has finally come around to acknowledging what his general manager, Brian Cashman, said the other day: that the Captain won't break camp with the New York Yankees Thursday and will start the season on the disabled list while Eduardo Nunez plays shortstop for the April 1 opener at Yankee Stadium.

"It pretty much that looks like what's going to happen," Jeter said at George Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday. "Of course it's disappointing. I've told you guys all along my goal was to be ready on Opening Day and I didn't reach it. Yeah. It's disappointing.''

For the first time since 2001, when Jeter strained a quadriceps late in spring training and Luis Sojo started the season in his position, the Yankees' Opening Day shortstop will be someone other than Jeter.

Although he has not been officially placed on the disabled list yet -- teams do not have to put players on the DL until the first day of actual play, which is Sunday, March 31 this year -- there is no longer even a shred of doubt about where Jeter is headed.

"We're running out of days, man,'' Jeter said." I just ran out of days. When is Opening Day, Monday? I just ran out of time."

As expected, the Yankees will backdate Jeter's DL stint to March 22, making him eligible for activation on April 6, when the Yankees are scheduled to play their fifth game of the regular season in Detroit against the Tigers.

But Jeter, who until now was insistent that he would be ready to play in the opener, no longer will even commit to being ready by then.

"I'm going to stop putting dates on it,'' Jeter said. "If you ask me, of course, yeah, I think I'll be ready by then. But I'll stop putting dates on it."

The reality of Jeter's Opening Day prospects hit home on Sunday morning, when Jeter awoke with his surgically-repaired ankle too painful to play after having taken four at-bats in a minor league game the day before.

"It was sore,'' he said. "It's sore, but as hard as it is sometimes, you have to try to look at the big picture. My goal was to be ready Opening Day, but the goal also is to be ready for the season. I pushed it to try to get to Opening Day and it didn't work out, but I still have to be ready for the majority of the season."

Jeter was scratched from the game that day and has engaged in no baseball activities since. He has been at Steinbrenner Field to undergo treatment, but he could provide no timetable for his return to field activity.

"We've got to sit down at some point today or tomorrow because they're leaving (for New York),'' he said. "I have to put together a schedule. I don't know what it is at this point."

Jeter appeared in just five major league preseason games -- two as a DH and three at shortstop -- and played just 13 innings in the field before the Yankees decided to play him only in minor league games for the rest of camp to preserve their ability to backdate the start of his DL stint, if necessary.

His appearance Saturday for the Triple-A Scranton Rail Riders, in which he grounded out four times and admittedly never ran full-speed to first base, was his only minor league game, and the subsequent reaction in his ankle raised doubts about whether he could stand up to the rigors of playing shortstop every day for the Yankees, at least early in the season.

Jeter said he did not know if he pushed the ankle too hard in his determination to make it back for the Yankees' opener, but admitted that his rehab has not always been as smooth as it had been portrayed before he was scratched from a game for the first time on March 19.

"There's always issues,'' he said. "Before I wasn't playing, there was no reason to take a day off because we weren't playing. There have been issues along the way, it's just really nothing worth talking about."

Jeter said he wasn't even sure if he would travel to New York to participate in pregame ceremonies for the opener on Monday.

"Whatever gets me ready to play the soonest is what I'll do,'' he said. "If it calls for me to be here to do stuff to get ready to play sooner, I will stay here and get ready to play sooner."