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Hard-working Jeter welcomes return to routine

Prepping for spring, Yankees shortstop completes third week of on-field workouts

TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees captain Derek Jeter wrapped up his third week of on-field workouts Friday, a week before New York's pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report.

The most significant thing to Jeter, at this point, is that this wasn't really his third week of work this offseason. Jeter has been working out since November to prepare for the season, a far cry from last winter, when he was in a walking boot until early January.

"Don't jinx anything," Jeter said outside the Yankees' Minor League complex, where he's been doing his pre-camp work. "It's been fun, but it's been difficult because you're starting over from scratch. It's basically going for pretty much a whole year where you can't really work out and can't really strengthen anything. You're starting over.

"It's a long process, but it's been enjoyable to get back to this point -- or, I should say, it's enjoyable now. Not necessarily going through it, but now, at this point, it's enjoyable."

The Yanks are counting on Jeter, who will turn 40 in June, to be their everyday shortstop again. He was limited to 17 games last year by complications from a left ankle fracture suffered during Game 1 of the 2012 American League Championship Series.

Coming off a "nightmare" year in 2013, Jeter has called this a "normal offseason" several times since beginning his workouts. The return to routine has been a welcome one.

"I've been working hard, and I've had a complete offseason to work out and strengthen everything," Jeter said. "So I feel good right now. ... We still have six weeks of Spring Training. The goal is to be ready Opening Day, not the first day of Spring Training, so you kind of pace yourself."

Jeter began playing catch, hitting in the cage and fielding grounders on the infield grass three weeks ago. He took his first round of on-field batting practice Monday and continued to show more range in his fielding drills each day this week, and he said he's been doing his regular offseason running. On a chilly, windy Friday morning, Jeter hit in an indoor cage and played catch before leaving the complex.

So far, Jeter has impressed his teammates working out around the complex. Right-hander David Phelps told reporters Jeter "looks amazing," and infielder Scott Sizemore offered a similar review.

"He looks like Jeter: smooth, going about his business, doing everything like he knows how to do," Sizemore said Thursday. "It's still early on, so you can't put too much on it. But he looks good so far."

Jeter deflected a question about whether he will retire after this season, saying instead that he's only focused on the day he'll move across the street from pre-camp workouts to begin Spring Training at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Jeter admitted it will be "strange" coming to camp without Mariano Rivera in much the same way that it was odd to carry on without longtime teammates Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte.

"Life goes on, I guess. You move on, and guys do other things, but yeah, it will be odd, because it'll be the first time at least one of them hasn't been there," Jeter said. "I was always the youngest. I'm supposed to be here last, right?"

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

New York Yankees, Derek Jeter