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Yankees will be cautious in Jeter's recovery

NEW YORK -- When Derek Jeter fractured his left ankle in New York's loss to the Tigers in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, the immediate concern was how the Yankees would fill the void for the remainder of the postseason. Now that they've been eliminated, the focus has been shifted to 2013.

Jeter underwent surgery on Saturday to repair the fracture. The procedure was performed by Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist in Charlotte, N.C., who estimated Jeter will be fully recovered in four to five months.

If the estimate holds true, Jeter will be at full health in time for most of Spring Training next March. Should he fully recover in four months -- Feb. 20 marks exactly four months from the date of surgery -- he will be available for the team's entire Grapefruit League exhibition schedule.

Jeter led the AL with 216 hits this season, silencing any doubts that his age has affected his production. General manager Brian Cashman said following Jeter's surgery that the Yankees fully expect the 38-year-old to enter next season as their starting shortstop, sentiments which manager Joe Girardi spoke about on Wednesday in a news conference at Yankee Stadium.

"I think there's always a concern, but really in our hearts we believe he's going to be ready for us," Girardi said. "We might have to hold him back a little bit; he may want to do too much because he always tells me that he feels great, so that's something that I'm going to have to evaluate."

Girardi said that the team will be cautious with Jeter's recovery, as any attempt to expedite the process could potentially lead to setbacks. He was fitted for a splint and crutches following the procedure.

"I think whenever a guy goes through something, there are some concerns," Girardi said. "Sometimes a player can rush it and tweak something else, because he's rushing it and he's anxious to get out there and he's tired of being on crutches, or however Derek's going to be for a while."

Cashman said Saturday that the Yankees have no plans to find a potential replacement for Jeter this offseason, and they will turn to backups should his recovery linger through the start of the regular season. New York turned to Jayson Nix in Game 2 of the ALCS and Eduardo Nunez started Games 3 and 4.

"I haven't looked at that at this stage," Cashman said on Saturday. "We do have Eduardo Nunez, we have Jayson Nix [as backups]. So it's not something we've focused on, and I wouldn't think that that's something I would gravitate to."

The Yankees have expressed confidence in Nunez's abilities as a shortstop -- should Jeter's tenure come to a close in the near future, Nunez would be a leading candidate to replace him if the Yankees re-sign Nunez long term.

Nunez finished 3-for-11 in the 2012 postseason -- including a ninth-inning home run off Justin Verlander in Game 3 -- but his glove continues to be a liability. But with time to improve, Girardi said Wednesday that Nunez holds a lot of potential.

"It's really hard to predict exactly what a guy's role is going be right now, because we don't know who's going to be on the team, but I think [Nunez] has something to offer us and I think we saw that during the Detroit series," Girardi said. "There is talent there, there is speed, there is excitement, there's a guy who has the ability I believe to be a good shortstop. He has a lot to offer."