Derek Jeter was dealing with plenty of emotions as he prepared for his latest return to the New York Yankees’ lineup.
"Excited, looking forward to it, anxious, happy," Jeter said. "What else could you have?"
Jeter was activated off the disabled list before New York’s game Monday at Toronto, starting at shortstop and batting second against the Blue Jays.
Jeter broke his left ankle in the AL championship series last October and missed the first 91 games this year. Since then, the 13-time All-Star has twice been forced back on the DL, first with a strained right quadriceps and more recently with a strained right calf.
"Hopefully we can keep him this time," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We haven’t been so fortunate the last two times."
Indeed, neither of Jeter’s previous comebacks have lasted very long. He was healthy for just three at-bats as a designated hitter before suffering his quadriceps strain, then made it through a mere four games before being shelved by the calf injury.
"I’m hoping I have no other problems, I really am," Jeter said, adding that he hasn’t been able to condition his legs as much as he’d like ever since October’s initial injury.
"Really, when you think about it, it’s not that surprising that something happened to them because it’s the first time I’m playing without working them out," Jeter said. "I’ll try to do as much as I can to keep them strong for this last month but all I can do is go out and play and hope everything is fine."
Monday’s game marked the first time this season that both Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were in New York’s starting lineup.
"It’s probably as whole as we’ve been all year long," Girardi said.
Girardi said he’ll monitor Jeter’s status on a daily basis, particularly over three games on Toronto’s artificial turf, and conceded that the 39-year-old may need the occasional day off over the final few weeks of the season.
"I’m just going to watch each day and make a decision," Girardi said. "Depending on how he feels and how we think he feels, we’ll make a decision."
Jeter is batting .211 (4 for 19) with one home run and two RBIs in five games. He has been absent for 125 games this season, more than the 82 total games he missed in five previous career trips to the DL.
The Yankees have gone 12-5 since Aug. 9, vaulting them back into the AL wild-card race. New York entered play Monday 3 games behind wild-card leaders Tampa Bay and Oakland, with Cleveland and Baltimore both ahead of them.
"I’m happy that the team is playing well, but we have to continue that," Jeter said.
New York has reached the playoffs in 17 of the past 18 seasons, only missing out in 2008.
Right-hander Preston Claiborne was optioned to Class A Tampa following Sunday’s 11-inning win over the Rays to open a roster spot for Jeter.