Derek Jeter will likely join Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson on the New York Yankees' star-studded disabled list for the season opener against the Boston Red Sox on April 1.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman says it's "more likely than not" Jeter will start on the DL because of a sore left ankle, still recovering from surgery last October.
"April 1 is unrealistic in my mind now," Cashman said Sunday. "There's nothing new going on other than growing pains as he gets through these final hurdles of his rehab."
Eduardo Nunez, known for his bat more than his glove, would fill in at shortstop for the 13-time All-Star, who broke the ankle Oct. 13 during the AL championship series opener against Detroit and had surgery a week later.
The 38-year-old, who has repeatedly vowed to be ready for opening day, played in his first big league spring training game on March 9 as a designated hitter. He returned to shortstop four days later, then played consecutive games on March 15 and 16 before inflammation kept him out of the lineup.
He received an anti-inflammatory injection Wednesday and had four at-bats as a DH Saturday in a minor league exhibition game.
"I know Derek extremely well, and I can read his face," Cashman said. "And his face today tells me that the reality of his circumstances is starting to sink in, and the disabled list might be necessary. I told him what I think, and he didn't fight me on it. That's reality."
Jeter is 3 for 11 with a double in five spring training games. New York could put him on the DL backdated to Friday, meaning he could be activated on April 6, when the Yankees are at Detroit.
"It's a goal, it doesn't mean an absolute," Cashman said. "We'll respond to how he's feeling. That's all we can do. At some point this will be behind him."
Cashman wants Jeter to be available to play the field when he's on the active roster.
"We have to get him to be able to play shortstop," Cashman said. "I don't think it's going to get him healthy DHing for us."
Jeter has not been on the DL for opening day since 2001, when he missed the first four games after straining his right quadriceps during a spring training game that March 16. Two years later, he dislocated his left shoulder in the opener during a collision at third base with Toronto catcher Ken Huckaby, who was covering the bag. Jeter was sidelined until May 13.
Seeking their 18th playoff berth in 19 years, the Yankees' batting order figure to be missing almost half its regulars when the season starts.
Rodriguez isn't expected back until after the All-Star break following left hip surgery on Jan. 16. Teixeira hasn't ruled out missing the first two months of the season because of a partially torn tendon sheath in his right wrist, an injury sustained while taking swings off a tee with the U.S. at the World Baseball Classic on March 5. Granderson is expected to be out until the first week of May after breaking his right forearm when he was hit by a pitch from Toronto's J.A. Happ on Feb. 24 in his first spring training at-bat.
In addition, New York allowed Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez to depart as free agents.