Injured Yankee Jeter will be 39 when he returns

NEW YORK — Don Mattingly knows about trying to come back from an injury that just won’t heal.

A star first baseman for the New York Yankees from 1982-95, Mattingly retired as a player following several years of severe back pain.

It remains to be seen how successful injured Yankees captain Derek Jeter will be in returning to shortstop this summer at age 39 — after a career-high, nine-month layoff.

“The older you get makes it tougher,” Mattingly, now the Los Angeles Dodgers manager, said Friday. “But I think if there was one guy I wouldn’t doubt, it would be Jeter because he seems to defy the odds.”

Jeter broke the ankle in the AL championship series opener against Detroit in Oct. 13 and found out Thursday there was a small crack near the original injury. The new break will need four to eight weeks to heal.

He hit .316 last season and led the AL with 216 hits, his best season since winning his fifth World Series title in 2009. Age has already crimped his range and some wonder whether he will be able to be an everyday shortstop when he returns.

“That’s a pretty significant injury when it’s going to impact your legs like it is, especially the position he plays,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “I don’t know if they have to start making other plans to play different spots based on mobility. I don’t know how significant or bad it is. But it’s going to be difficult to come back to what we remember of him in the past, I would think.”

Not wearing a boot and walking without a limp, Jeter spent 45 minutes Friday at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, Fla. The Yankees captain was wearing sneakers when he left the facility, where he talked with the training staff. Asked if he was disappointed by the setback, he said “of course” but little else.

Jeter plans to talk about his injury with New York media next week when the Yankees return from a trip that ends Wednesday at Tampa Bay.

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