Derek Jeter Expects to be Ready by Opening Day and Believes Playing ‘Small Ball’ Wins Championships

Reggie McKenzie answers questions next to owner Mark Davis, at left, during his introduction as the general manager of the Oakland Raiders NFL football team, during a news conference in Alameda, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Derek Jeter knew his ankle was broken in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers last October and that was the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ chances of advancing to the World Series. Now the biggest key for the Yankees this season is keeping ‘The Captain” healthy and productive. No. 2 continues his rehab from a broken ankle, but sounds like his old self, which is as confident as ever. Jeter doesn’t sound too worried about the Bronx Bombers’ lack of power at all, either. From the sound of it, the Yankees shortstop believes it may be a blessing in disguise. Derek Jeter joined 660 WFAN in New York with Mike Francesa to discuss his recovery from ankle surgery, not knowing what to expect in his ankle rehabilitation, knowing that his ankle was broken in Game 1 of the ALCS against Detroit, his playing schedule in spring training, starting at shortstop on opening day for the Yankees, the Yankees losing a few free agents over the offseason and a lack of power in the Yankees lineup.

Everyone in New York wants to know how are you feeling?

“I feel good. It’s been a long process, but I’m feeling pretty good right now.”

From the night you broke your ankle in October has the rehab been what you expected?

“I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve only had one serious injury, when I dislocated my shoulder, but this one was a little bit different because I couldn’t move around for quite some time. It’s taken awhile to get back where I am now, but I am pretty close to getting out there and playing.”

Did you know instantaneously that night in October that you were hurt badly?

“I knew it was broken. I felt it break. I was kind of scared to look at it because I didn’t know if it was going to be pointing in a different direction. I knew something bad had happened and I wasn’t going to be able to continue, or at least in that game.”

What do you foresee for yourself here and into opening day?

“I haven’t really put a date on it. I think Brian Cashman had floated that date out there. I’ll play as soon as I am ready to play. Everyone is pointing to the fact that I am missing the first couple of weeks. But I played in the World Baseball Classic a couple of times and I missed a lot of spring training. Last year I think I may have only played in four or five games while I was gone those two or three weeks, so I really don’t think it will be a big deal missing the beginning of spring training and I’ll just have to play a little bit more at the end.”

Do you expect to be at shortstop on opening day?

“Yeah, no question. [Mike Francesa: Is there anything that needs to happen in order to get cleared for opening day?] No. Everyone says, ‘Well, why opening day?’ It’s my job. My job is to be ready on opening day. I don’t know if I have to do anything to prove anything to anyone.”

Do you feel this being a seismic shift for this Yankees team this season?

“No, I don’t. I still think we have a great team. We’ve brought back a lot of guys. We’ve lost a couple of people, but that happens each and every year. Names change, philosophy stays the same. I think we have a good team. I am excited about it. We may have to find some different ways to do some things, but I don’t have a problem with that. I think a lot of people are confident. We have a great pitching staff and I told you before, that’s how you win and lose, with pitching staffs.”

How about the difference in approach in the Yankees lineup? A little less power in the lineup this season, huh?

“That seems to be the big topic. We don’t hit as many home runs. We didn’t win hitting home runs, so the bottom line is you either win or lose. We gotta find ways to get it done. You play in the playoffs and you heard me say it time and time again: You are not going to hit too many home runs in the postseason because you are going to be facing better pitching, especially when you get to the ALCS and the World Series. There aren’t too many games that are 10-8 or 10-9 with three or four home runs. You gotta find ways to get things done. Small ball is something we are going to have to do. I’ve always enjoyed playing games like that. It reminds me of the teams we had in the past. When I first came up, we didn’t hit too many home runs.”

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