TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Derek Jeter briskly cut across the diamond, heading to a familiar spot for the first pitch. Clearly, he was eager to get going.
"It's been a while," the New York Yankees' captain said.
The 38-year-old shortstop played the field Wednesday night for the first time since breaking his left ankle in the AL championship opener last October. It was totally routine — he easily turned a grounder into a forceout, the only play he got in four innings of a 6-2 win over Philadelphia.
"It was good. It was good to be out there again," he said. "Not too much happened."
No missteps, either. With his parents watching from the stands, Jeter dashed from first to third on a single by Ichiro Suzuki, jogged on and off the field without a problem and then pronounced himself fine as he prepares for the season opener against Boston.
"It was a good starting point," he said. "The goal is April 1."
Known for his cool, Jeter admitted he was a bit nervous taking the field. That's normal, he said, a feeling any player might get before handling his first grounder or hitting for the first time.
"I think you'll see a comfort zone come over him the more he's out there," manager Joe Girardi said.
Girardi certainly liked what he saw with No. 2 in the middle of things.
"It just seems right when he's out there," he said.
Jeter said the main thing was that he felt good, aside for general soreness around the injury that comes with the territory. He said he wasn't worried that his ankle will break again.
"It's just getting used to doing things without thinking about it," he said.
Jeter certainly looked and sounded like his usual self. He chatted with umpires between innings, kidding with Ben Revere after the Phillies speedster stole a base and keeping up a steady dialogue with starting pitcher Andy Pettitte, his longtime teammate.
"He was mouthin' the whole time," Pettitte said.
Added Pettitte: "It was good to have him out there, it's always good to see him out there."
Jeter had little action in the field. Until his lone play in the fourth, the closest he came was on a grounder that third baseman Kevin Youkilis cut in front of him to field.
"I had that one, too," Jeter said.
Jeter, who had twice been the designated hitter this spring, went 0 for 2 with a walk. Girardi said soon he will start playing Jeter in a back-to-back games with opening day less than three weeks away.
Girardi joked before the game that he'd put some limitations on Jeter.
"No cartwheels. He can't do what Ozzie Smith does. No cartwheels, no back flips. That's it," he said.
Instead, Girardi hoped for progress toward the regular season.
"There's two things that I think is important. A, he can move around where he doesn't feel like the injury is hindering him. And B, doesn't hurt. That he can bounce back day-to-day without him feeling something in his ankles," he said.
"So, if he can get over those two hurdles in the next 2 1-2, three weeks, whatever, he's a player," he said.