In many ways, this already feels like an abnormal offseason for Derek Jeter, as we have become accustomed to watching the Yankees captain spend his Octobers in uniform on the game's biggest stages.
Jeter and his team have instead been home for weeks, having come up short in their bid to extend their season into the autumn. Yet Jeter has also expressed excitement about how normal his winter could be.
The 39-year-old captain believes that being unable to follow his usual offseason training program was a major factor in the 2013 campaign he called a "nightmare," featuring four stints on the disabled list due to a troublesome left ankle and other injuries.
"I haven't been able to work out my legs or lift my legs since October of last year," Jeter said before the end of the regular season. "The first time it broke [in the American League Championship Series], you can't do anything weight-bearing and you can't work out.
"Then I was cleared in Spring Training and it was only a couple weeks before I had the second incident. I really think it's just from a lack of strength. ... I think just having a normal offseason, getting back to being able to work out -- no one foresees any other issues."
The Yankees believe that the pounding Jeter gave his weakened left ankle prompted a chain reaction that eventually sent the shortstop back to the DL with a new ankle fracture, a quadriceps strain and a calf injury.
Jeter is expected to exercise a $9.5 million player option for the 2014 season and will turn 40 in June. There is not a long history of shortstops who remained productive past that milestone -- in fact, only Omar Vizquel played more than 100 games as a shortstop at age 39 or older.
Mindful of that, it would be prudent for the Yankees to seek some measure of support at shortstop in 2014. Two potential free-agent shortstops, Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta, will be in uniform Wednesday night for Game 4 of the ALCS in Detroit.
The Yankees also enjoyed watching Brendan Ryan show off his wizardry in the field after picking Ryan up in a September trade with the Mariners, but they are still counting on Jeter to contribute.
"I certainly hope to get Derek back to the Derek that we're all used to," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "He's one of those guys that did everything in his power to fight through something that turned out to be pretty significant.
"And so now he'll have some time to back off, get some rest, some more flexibility back and get every aspect of that ankle in line as far as the kinetic chain."
Jeter was limited to 17 games this year, batting .190 (12-for-63) with one home run and seven RBIs. Cashman said that the only position options he could entertain for Jeter in 2014 would be shortstop and designated hitter.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has agreed with that, saying that it would be "premature" to discuss a position change before Jeter has a chance to recapture his expected level of play. Besides, the Yankees have not been in the business of betting against Jeter.
"I expect him to play, and I think he'll do everything in his power to get back to the form he was in 2012," Girardi said. "He's got an offseason that he has a lot of strength that he wants to gain back in his legs and have a normal offseason. It should be good for him."
Despite lingering pain that prompted the Yankees to prematurely end Jeter's season on Sept. 11 in Baltimore, Jeter has been told there is no reason he would not be able to follow his usual winter program.
After speaking with team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad, as well as Dr. Robert Anderson, the Charlotte, N.C., based surgeon who performed Jeter's left ankle surgery a year ago, Jeter said that he would take a few weeks to rest and then resume working out.
"I truly believe, with a full offseason of working out and getting my strength back, that I'll get back to doing what I've always done," Jeter said.