Yankees people are mentioning May 1 as potentially the key date in their season. The team's medical people are suggesting, at least in behind-the-scenes conversations, that May 1 could be a target date for the return of three of their missing stars: Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson.

Considering the way the team looks early with its makeshift lineup, they have to hope they aren't saying May Day by then.

Jeter is the interesting one. With him only playing long toss and doing other therapy in Tampa at the moment, it's uncertain when he will be back, as manager Joe Girardi suggested on Wednesday when he gave no timetable. But sources say that the May 1 date has at least been mentioned by Yankees personnel as a possibility -- barring another setback. So far they haven't publicly named a new target date, and it isn't certain whether they will anytime soon.

Jeter suffered a setback with his surgically repaired ankle on March 19, 10 days after his spring debut. Originally, it was chalked up to "stiffness,'' with Jeter still aiming to be ready opening day. However, the progress has been much slower than initially hoped.

May 1 might be optimistic, and a Yankees person suggested that date may assume no more setbacks. Jeter still needs to go through several steps before he can return, starting with taking grounders. The first time he began taking grounders this spring it was still a few weeks before he appeared in a spring game. Understandably, the Yankees plan to proceed cautiously with their iconic shortstop. He is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday, as they had hoped he could make it back by the end of the first week of the season even after opening day was ruled out.

Girardi might have been trying to say something hopeful when he talked to reporters Wednesday, but what he said was quite revealing.

"Our expectation is that he is going to be an everyday player again,'' Girardi told Yankees writers. "When is that, we're concerned about, and how long it takes for him to get through what he needs to get through to be that everyday player.''