TAMPA, Fla. -- Crunching gravel with his spikes and whipping a weighted bat in front of a chain-link fence at the Yankees' training complex, Derek Jeter nodded toward the young man wearing a jersey with No. 22 on the back and quizzed him, "You wanna hit?"
With the rules in these spring games pretty much equivalent to what you remember from the schoolyard, Yankees Minor Leaguer Jose Toussen took Jeter up on his invitation and rewarded the captain by homering over the wall in left-center field.
"See? I know what I'm doing," Jeter cracked. "I could see it in his eyes."
It was a fun moment for Toussen, a center fielder who spent most last season at Class A Tampa, and a highlight in an otherwise unremarkable day for Jeter. The Yankees captain grounded out in each of his four at-bats for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre during an afternoon game against the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate.
Jeter was permitted to bat in each of the first four innings against Bucs right-hander Phil Irwin, leading off three times. He bounced out to third base three times and slapped a hard shot to first base that was deflected into a 3-4-1 putout.
Joking that he had been "working on hitting the ball on the ground," Jeter said he was not running at full speed on his surgically repaired left ankle, though he did not really have an opportunity to test himself.
"It takes time," Jeter said. "I was also cautious because the field was kind of wet. I almost wiped out a couple of times out of the box. That's something you build up to."
Jeter seemed to be in better spirits than he had been following a morning workout at George M. Steinbrenner Field, when he said that he was tired of answering questions about the health of his ankle, which required a cortisone injection earlier this week.
"I will not address how anything feels anymore," Jeter said. "It's good. It's not broken. Some things, you've got to work through, like I told you. It's really pointless to sit here and say each and every day, 'How's it feel? Does it feel better?'
"It's pointless. Some days are good, some days are bad, but you've got to work through it. That's what I'm going to do."
Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson attended the game, as well as Yankees infield coach Mick Kelleher. Jeter said that the most important thing he got out of Saturday's experience at the Minor League complex was that he saw a good number of pitches.
"Results, just like when you start, aren't the most important thing," said Jeter, who killed time between at-bats by hitting on a tee. "It's just to see pitches, and that's what I did, and then we'll move from there."
Jeter was 3-for-11 with a double in five Grapefruit League games this spring with the Yankees. General manager Brian Cashman has said that Jeter is not expected to play in any more games against Major League competition so the Yankees can preserve the option of backdating a possible disabled-list stint, so Jeter will have to iron out his timing against Minor League pitching to prepare for the season.
"Sometimes it clicks early, you know what I mean?" Jeter said. "Sometimes it takes longer. I don't think there's necessarily a certain recipe for it. You just go see pitches, have at-bats and then feel comfortable. The good thing is I'm seeing it good."
Jeter said that he has not been told what his next step will be, though he noted that the forecast calls for rain on Sunday, which could wash out any scheduled action for him.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has said that he wants to see Jeter play in back-to-back games before considering his availability, and Jeter said he believes he still has time to convince the Yankees to put him on the Opening Day roster.
"We're going to take it day to day; see what happens," Jeter said.