Countdown to Spring Training: Day 20


The Yankees are preparing for the season ahead and one key part of the team still has a status unknown.

Early this week, Derek Jeter took several swings in batting practice at the Yankees’ minor-league complex.

Once finished, Jeter played catch and then went to shortstop and fielded ground balls, moving easily but hardly at game speed and lobbing throws to first base. In any other spring, these drills would be just another workday spent on the field for the Yankee captain.

But Jeter is coming off a 2013 season ruined by injury. He is in the final year of his contract and this conceivably could be his final year in pinstripes.

The New York Daily News has reported that he had not taken live BP or fielded grounders at short in his pre-spring training work, so this week’s practice was a milestone.

“I remember when I turned 35, everyone said, ‘That’s it, he can’t play anymore, end of my career,’  ” Jeter said while sitting in his car and signing autographs outside the Yanks’ complex after his workout. “So it’s really nothing different.

“Eventually, somebody’s going to be right, you know what I mean? You’re going to run out of numbers.”

Baseball’s annals are not exactly littered with 40-year-old shortstops who have had spectacular seasons — Jeter will be 40 on June 26 — but instead of seeking tips in the careers of Honus Wagner, Luke Appling and Barry Larkin, Jeter is simply concentrating on feeling good and an offseason that he’s repeatedly said is “normal.”

He says he’s not even motivated by anyone’s doubts.

“I really don’t get as deep as you guys think,” Jeter said. “My job is to get ready to play. I don’t sit around and worry about what people think and what they say.”

Before he hit the field Monday, Jeter worked in a batting cage. It’s all part of his usual routine, which he was unable to do last year when he was rehabbing his broken ankle.

A year ago, Jeter was only about one month out of a protective boot.

“Last year, to be quite honest, I want to forget about it. You can’t really compare the two offseasons. Last year was like starting over from scratch — not even starting from scratch because I had to build back up to where I was before I got hurt and then try to build up, so I never really got on track.”

He had hoped to be ready for last year’s opener, but wasn’t. He rebroke his left ankle and other leg injuries kept him out of the Yanks’ lineup. The team shut him down in September. He only played 17 games.

His previous low since making the majors for good was 119 games in 2003.

Jeter has communicated with some of the new guys. He has known Brian McCann from playing with him in the World Baseball Classic and Brian Roberts and Jacoby Ellsbury from AL East battles.

“I’m looking forward to playing with them,” he said.

To do so, he’ll have to stay healthy this year and he knows that.

For more on this story visit: Anthony McCarron, NY Daily News