NEW YORK -- The message that Derek Jeter was waiting for blinked on his cellphone just before midnight ET on Wednesday, and as the Yankees captain rolled across those miles of dark Pennsylvania highway, he told himself to swing at the first pitch he saw.
Jeter made good on that promise, jumping into the Yankees' lineup a day earlier than expected and going 1-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in New York's 8-4 win over the Royals on Thursday. And though he exited after feeling tightness in his right quad, Jeter is sure that he was completely prepared to play in a big league game.
"I felt as though I was ready," Jeter said. "I've had a lot of at-bats down in simulated games; I know it's a little bit different. People focused on the four games in Scranton, but I got a lot of at-bats, I did a lot of things. I've been running around all over the place. I felt as though I was ready, and they called me up."
Jeter was 1-for-9 with two runs scored and four walks in four games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, making three starts at shortstop and one as a designated hitter. He said that he was "a little bit" surprised to hear from general manager Brian Cashman so late on Wednesday, but certainly not displeased.
"All I had to hear from him was, 'Hey, I'm ready,'" said Cashman, who reached Jeter on his cellphone after the Yankees' 8-1 victory over the Royals on Wednesday. "And he said that. I said, 'All right, well, head on back.'"
Cashman said that the Yankees accelerated Jeter's return by a day because of injuries to Brett Gardner and Travis Hafner in Wednesday's game. Gardner was hit on the right ankle by a pitch and Hafner fouled a ball off his left foot in the batting cage, leaving manager Joe Girardi's lineup card shorthanded.
Since the plan was for Jeter to DH for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre anyway, and with some weather concerns in the region for both clubs, Cashman said that the Yankees decided they might as well have Jeter DH in New York. After traveling to Manhattan, Jeter said he scored about 2 1/2 hours of sleep.
"It's a huge difference," Jeter said. "No disrespect to any rehab assignment that you do, but it's Yankee Stadium. Back here, I was nervous going into the game. It's almost like it's Opening Day for me. ... It felt good to be out there, and the fans were great.
"They gave me a nice ovation. It's been a long time. I've done a lot of rehab to get back to this point, and it felt good to finally be out there and playing in a game."
Jeter legged out an infield single in his first at-bat, a slow roller that third baseman Miguel Tejada juggled, and had to run from first to third base when Robinson Cano singled up the middle before scoring on Vernon Wells' sacrifice fly.
On all of those plays, Jeter appeared to be running fluidly, syncing with the assessments Cashman has received from superscout Gene Michael and assistant GM Jim Hendry, among others.
"Everybody that has gone to see him, they all say the same thing, 'I'm surprised how he's moving. He's moving really well,'" Cashman said. "You can tell. People's bodies tell you. I think Derek feels great. That's why he's told everybody, 'I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm healthy.'"
But it appeared less so when Jeter did not move well down the first-base line on his second-inning groundout, and Jeter said his quadriceps tightened on his fifth-inning groundout to second base.
"These are things you're concerned about," Girardi said. "Our original plan wasn't necessarily to bring him back today, but we've been in kind of a tough situation all year, and you get a couple guys that get beat up yesterday. We just felt if he was going to play down in Triple-A, he could play here today and see what happens."
Jeter shot down the suggestion that the quad injury could be related to a change in his gait because of the previous left ankle injuries.
"I've been running all over the place for the last three weeks, so no, I don't think it has anything to do with that," Jeter said.
This much is certain. After suffering the initial fracture last October, admittedly playing through an injury he shouldn't have been and then a second break in a different spot this March during Spring Training, Jeter wants to believe that all of his serious injury problems will be in the past.
"I can't really worry about it, you know what I mean?" Jeter said. "The second time it broke was a fluke thing. I came back and it was completely healed; 100 percent healed. It just so happened it cracked again. Now, I'm ready to go again.
"I can't sit around and think about what may happen; you just go out and play. It's kind of hard to play a game thinking about what may happen. I'm ready to go, I want to play and my ankle is fine."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.