In a season of frustration and injuries, Derek Jeter had only good things to report Thursday.
"I felt good, " Jeter said. "The most important thing is to make sure I feel good. It's been a very frustrating season for me, but I want to get back as soon as possible. But I understand there's a process."
The last step of the process was a trip back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday, where over 9,000 fans turned out to see the Yankees captain suit up for his first Triple-A game since July 10. Recovering from a quad strain, Jeter looked healthy, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in his first rehab game in the Yankees' top affiliate's 5-2 loss to Pawtucket.
Despite the good news, it's unclear when the veteran will return to New York. Jeter doubled to left-center field and scored in the first inning and singled home a run in the fifth on an infield chopper up the middle before leaving for a defensive replacement. He hit into a fielder's choice in the third, but was rubbed out at second on an ensuing fielder's chice.
"I felt good at the plate," he said. "My approach has always been pretty simple, get a strike and try to hit it."
It wasn't all easy, though -- he failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt in the third inning and botched a ground ball hit to short by Heiker Meneses in the fourth, allowing Pawtucket to score a pair of runs and take a 5-1 lead. Jeter handled Brock Holt's grounder for the final out of the frame, the only other ball hit his way.
"I didn't catch it. It really was easy, I don't know if I took my eye off it, I'm not sure," he said, "but it shouldn't happen."
Jeter confirmed he will return for another start Friday, but was unsure how many innings he'll play.
"I'm playing, I believe, but our trainer is in the dugout, I'm sure I'll talk to him afterwards," he said.
Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he expects Jeter to play in at least two rehab games this week and would not be activated Friday.
"As I've said, we'll just go day by day and see how he responds each day," Girardi told MLB.com. "The plan, I think, is for him to play five innings in the field."
Jeter, who called his season "a nightmare" on Aug. 4, was placed on the Yankees' 15-day disabled list with a Grade 1 right calf strain on Aug. 5 and has been working primarily at the Yankees complex in Tampa, Fla., to recover. He spoke earlier in the week about his hopes of avoiding a rehab assignment, but instead returned to PNC Park, where he appeared in four rehab games from July 6-10 in his comeback from a fractured ankle and quad strain.
"I always think I can just jump back in," Jeter said Tuesday. "I did last time. But like I said, I get it. If they want me to go play somewhere, I'll go play somewhere. It's entirely up to them. I'm not really in a power position to negotiate, that's all I can say."
On Thursday, he repeated the sentiment.
"I'm always anxious to get back to New York," he said. "It's been a very frustrating year for me, I think I've missed more games with injuries this year than I have my entire career combined."
Jeter missed the first half of the season with ankle and quad issues and has appeared in just five Major League games. He homered in his first at-bat back with the Yankees, but aggravated his calf three weeks ago and went for an MRI before landing back on the DL.
"It's been terrible," Jeter said Aug, 4. "It's been like a nightmare. This whole season has been a nightmare."
The 39-year-old's season may be finally turning around, though. New York has won 11 of 14 games to pull within 3 1/2 games of the Wild Card, and with Jayson Nix breaking his hand, the team needs its veteran shortstop now more than ever.
"It felt fine, I'd been doing a lot of running down in Florida before I came up here, but everything is different when you're in a game," Jeter said. "There were no issues."
Jeter said it's normal to takes things slow when returning from an injury -- prior to this season, he'd never played fewer than 100 games in a season for New York.
"When you first come back, you're a little hesitant, but I think it's like that any time you come back from an injury," he said
Jeter kidded reporters who questioned his error in the third.
"I did make one play," he said, bringing laughs.
Friday will present another test for the Yankees captain, though, as the Red Sox are expected to start Charlie Haeger, a knuckleballer. Jeter said it wasn't ideal to face a knuckler when you're trying to regain your timing at the plate.
"I'm sure I'll have plenty of at-bats, but ideally you don't want to face a knuckleballer. But it is what it is," he said. "I'm sure I'll face a guy who doesn't throw knuckleballs soon."