But it wasn't to be. All four returned for what seemed like a brief moment before being injured once again, placing the Yankees in a cavernous hole that's getting tougher to climb out of.
"No, I've never seen a season like this one," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said on Friday at Yankee Stadium. "But the Yankees are going to continue to have a season, and we're going to play through it. We've had Granderson, Youk, Teixeira and, now, Jeter. There's nothing you can do about it. It's just one of those years."
Jeter spent months recovering from a badly broken left ankle before fractured another bone in it during Spring Training, and he thought he was ready to return when he made his 2013 debut on Thursday against the Royals as the designated hitter. But he was removed from the game early after complaining about soreness in his right thigh.
An MRI performed on Friday revealed that Jeter has a Grade 1 strain of his right quadriceps, which in layman's terms is the mildest form of the injury. But any strain at all means there's some tearing of the muscle, which is never good news.
"It's frustrating," Jeter said in a statement released by the Yankees on Friday in lieu of him appearing at his locker before the game against the Twins. "I don't know what else you want me to say. I worked hard to get to the point of rejoining the team yesterday. It's not how you draw it up, but hopefully I'll be back out there soon and help this team win some games."
Jeter's out for at least this weekend's three-game series against Minnesota, which hugs up right against the four-day All-Star break, and he won't return any earlier than next Friday night against the Red Sox in Boston, the Yankees' first game after the break.
Said Cashman: "If he's not ready, he'll go back on the DL.
"We can backdate him 10 days to the day of the injury if we need to," he added. "We'll play short through the weekend and see how it goes. Our next game [in Boston] after the All-Star break isn't for seven days, so we'll have plenty of time to make a decision. We'll DL him if we have to."
The question now is whether the Yankees erred in bringing Jeter back too quickly. The All-Star break would have been a natural demarcation line. Considering the nature of Jeter's injury and the length of his recovery, no one would have questioned the club taking precautions and bringing him back in Boston. Instead they brought him back a day earlier than originally planned.
"It's hindsight about rushing him back," Cashman said. "We were going to bring him back off rehab and have him play shortstop [on Friday]. He was going to DH in the Minor Leagues anyway yesterday. So we brought him back a day early and he DHed up here. There's no way of knowing how it would have gone the other way. It's a Grad 1 quad strain, so he could very well have done it down there."
It has been that kind of year.
Granderson's right wrist was broken by a pitch at the outset of Spring Training. He returned on May 14, and just as he was beginning to round into shape, the knuckle of his left pinkie was fractured by a pitch. He's been out since and still is not ready to swing a bat.
Teixeira tore the sheath covering a tendon in his right wrist swinging off a tee as he prepared to play in the World Baseball Classic. After an extremely cautious rehab, he returned on May 31, and he played in 15 games before reinjuring the wrist. He underwent surgery on July 1 and is out for the season.
Ditto Youkilis, who went out with a bad back on April 17 and missed a month before returning on the same day as Teixeira. Youkilis lasted two weeks before having to undergo surgery to relieve a herniated disc. He could be back for a September run -- if, for the Yankees, there is one.
Jeter played on a severely injured ankle all of this past September and into the playoffs, but it finally gave out in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, against the Tigers, when he ranged up the middle and collapsed on the field. A plate and screws were placed in the bone to secure the ankle; it was one of those bones that fractured again as he prepared for Opening Day.
Jeter just turned 39, and he is certainly Captain Courageous. He has the most hits of any Yankee in history, and after legging out a single on Thursday, he has 3,305, 10th all-time, behind Eddie Collins.
He has a $9.5 million option on next year's contract, and there's no doubt he'll keep striving to come back.
"He's pretty positive, but obviously, he's not happy," Cashman said.
"Feisty. He wants to play tonight," manager Joe Girardi added. "Pretty normal Derek Jeter stuff. His frame of mind is good. He wants to give it a shot after these seven days and see where he's at, which is to me, normal Derek Jeter."