Jeter returns to Yankees lineup

Derek Jeter is back for the New York Yankees.

The team captain has been activated off the 60-day disabled list after playing four minor league rehab games in his recovery from a broken left ankle. He is slated to bat second as the designated hitter for Thursday afternoon's game against Kansas City.

Jeter suffered the broken ankle during Game 1 of last year's American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers and sustained another fracture during spring training that set his return further back. He likely would have remained at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre if not for a couple of minor injuries to a pair of Yankees in Wednesday's game against the Royals.

Both designated hitter Travis Hafner and outfielder Brett Gardner suffered minor bruises during the contest and Yankees manager Joe Girardi indicated that Jeter might not have returned until the weekend series against Minnesota if not for the injuries.

Girardi had previously said the Yankees wouldn't bring Jeter back until he played consecutive games in the field during his rehab assignment -- something he did not accomplish. He was 1-for-9 during his minor league stint, playing at shortstop and as the DH.

"He hasn't been extended in the field," Girardi said before Thursday's game. "I'm not so sure how we'll (use him) the next few days. We have to guard against rushing him back and we have to pick days off. It's my job to manage him physically even though he wants to be out there everyday."

The 39-year-old Jeter is coming off a productive 2012 season in which he hit for a .316 batting average with 15 homers, 58 RBI and 99 runs scored.

"We always expect Derek to play at a high level," said Girardi about his expectations for the 13-time All-Star. "Derek's been a leader since the day he got here. It's important to have him around."

The Yankees have used a number of players at shortstop in Jeter's absence, starting with Eduardo Nunez. Jayson Nix was the primary shortstop after Nunez went on the DL in late April with an oblique strain, but Nix was shelved earlier this month with a strained right hamstring.

New York opened a roster spot for Jeter by designating first baseman Travis Ishikawa for assignment. Ishikawa, acquired earlier this month from Baltimore, appeared in just one game for the Yankees and struck out in his only two at- bats.