Derek Jeter received an ovation that could be heard throughout Steinbrenner Field when he jogged onto the diamond for the New York Yankees' first full-squad workout Monday.
Jeter took part in most of the team drills, including on-field batting practice for the first time since undergoing ankle surgery last October. The 38-year-old captain, who has been hitting in an indoor cage, also took part in a 25-minute defensive session at shortstop.
"It felt good," Jeter said. "It's the first time I'm doing everything on the field, in terms of hitting on the field, groundballs on the dirt. What I'm doing now is what I would be doing at the beginning of workouts anyway, but I'm a couple weeks behind."
Although he didn't take part in agility or running, Jeter got the day's biggest salute from the several hundred fans present when he first appeared. They also cheered when he lined a ball to right on his first BP swing.
While waiting to enter the batting cage, a young fan near the dugout yelled "Jeter" several times before the 13-time All-Star turned toward the stands, said "What?, smiled and then tipped his batting helmet.
A woman then asked for an autograph, and Jeter replied "[manager Joe] Girardi said no." That prompted laughs from the fans, Girardi and hitting coach Kevin Long, who was standing nearby.
After batting practice, Jeter signed a photo for the woman.
'I've already convinced myself'
Jeter broke his left ankle lunging for a grounder in the AL championship series opener against Detroit on Oct. 1 and had surgery a week later. He says he will be in the lineup for opening day against Boston on April 1.
"I don't have to convince myself that I'll be ready," Jeter said. "I've already convinced myself."
Jeter was hurt while going after Jhonny Peralta's 12th-inning grounder up the middle as the Yankees tried to keep the score tied after they rallied for four runs in the ninth.
"It's nice to see him doing what he loves to do," Girardi said. "He's important to our club, and it's good to see that he's at this point. The last time I saw him on the field I was helping him off it, and that's not a good feeling."
No date has been announced for when Jeter will resume a running program and start full lateral movement at short.
"Those days, they'll be here soon enough," Girardi said.
Jeter is likely two or three weeks away from making his 2013 exhibition game debut.