Derek Jeter has yanked a lot of fly balls down the left-field line at Yankee Stadium. By now, he has a pretty good idea which ones are going out, which ones are going foul and which ones are going off the wall. Today, he thought wrong.
“When I hit it, I thought it was a home run,” Jeter said. “Then I thought it was going to go foul. Next thing you know, it ricocheted right to the left fielder so I had to pick up the pace a little bit. There were some guys laughing — until a couple of them hit some balls and the wind got them, too.”
Off the bat, it seemed all of Yankee Stadium thought – or at least hoped – that Jeter’s fifth-inning double was going out. Would have been perfect, right? A home run in the Captain’s final home opener? Even Jeter, the guy with the reputation of always playing hard, took it easy jogging out of the box and didn’t really turn on the speed until he was almost to first base.
“I decided to test to make sure that my legs were still good,” Jeter said. “So I waited a little bit and then picked up the speed when I needed to just to show that my legs were good. Almost like it was an audition. Look, maybe you get caught up in Opening Day. I thought it was a home run. I hit it good enough to be one, and it just wasn’t. It didn’t go out. You probably haven’t seen it and you probably won’t see it again. What can you do? I was safe. It would be a lot more embarrassing if I was out, but I did make it, so I’m fine with it.”
Joe Girardi said there were plenty of guys giving Jeter a hard time on the bench.
“Listen, we’ve all done it,” Mark Teixeira said. “For Derek at 40, we’re going to let him slide. He’s an old man.”
That old man wrapped up his final home opener with a win, and that seemed to be all that mattered to Jeter. He seemed loose and happy. Have to believe this was the first time in at least a year and a half that he played a game at Yankee Stadium feeling fully healthy.
His old friends were in town. The crowd gave him several standing ovations. He said his only advice from his parents was to have fun and get some hits.
“It felt good,” Jeter said. “I think (feeling healthy) is why I was so excited. I was excited to be out there regardless of whether it was the home opener. It’s been such a long time before I’ve been out there feeling good. I don’t want to jinx anything, but it felt really good. It felt like maybe my first home opener. It was a fun time for me.
“… I really missed it last year. Sometimes you don’t realize it until you get back out on the field. Home openers are special here at Yankee Stadium.”
· After Hiroki Kuroda’s strong start this afternoon, the Yankees have now gone almost a full turn through the rotation without a walk. Their past four starters have not walked anyone. Those four – Kuroda, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka – have combined for 23 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.
· Kuroda allowed just two runs through 6.1 innings, but he said he didn’t feel especially sharp. “I thought my movement on my two-seamers weren’t as sharp, and the slider as well, didn’t break that much,” he said. “I was trying to be patient and make sure that I keep the ball down and not to walk anybody. That was it.”
· Today’s save was the first of Shawn Kelley’s career. Could be the answer to a trivia question: Who was the first pitcher to save a game at Yankee Stadium after Mariano Rivera retired? “Oh gosh, no, I didn’t even think about that until you said that,” Kelley said. “Gosh, it’s good that I didn’t blow it. He was here. He would have been mad at me.
· Nervous in the ninth? “There were some butterflies, I think, because it’s my first one,” Kelley said. “It’s my first opportunity even to save a game in the ninth. But once I threw the first pitch, it was back to normal business – and, huh, after that I don’t even remember what happened.”
· Dave Robertson has only gone on the disabled list one other time, and that was the last time he was handed the ninth-inning (after the Rivera injury in 2012). “Every time I get the chance, something just stops me from it,” Robertson said. “But I’ll get healthy. I’ll get back.”
· With Kelley likely moving into the ninth inning, it seems Adam Warren could get the bulk of the eighth-inning setup opportunities. He’s become a go-to late-inning option already this season. Today he struck out Adam Jones with a 95-mph fastball, then he got Chris Davis looking at a good slider. “Today is the first time he went back to back this year, but I liked what I saw,” Girardi said. “I was encouraged by it at the end of last year.”
· Warren on the feeling coming into the eighth today: “I definitely felt like I had more energy today, and it’s kind of a neat feeling. Just that little bit of extra energy, and then the crowd starts getting excited. It definitely gets you more adrenaline, and you get a little more amped up for it.”
· Big out for David Phelps as well, especially coming off some rocky outings that included three home runs. “I hope (Girardi) has confidence in me,” Phelps said. “I’d like to think that a small sample size wouldn’t have completely blown it. I know that I have to make pitches, and these first couple of outings I haven’t. Today I was able to, and we got the results.”
· By the way, the other bullpen guys call Warren “Rocket” and won’t say why. Warren just laughs when he’s asked about it.
· Jeter on the crowd’s ovation for his first at-bat: “I’ve gotten some pretty good ovations throughout the years. I’m really not trying to think about these things while I’m playing. I’m trying to think about what my job is. But that affected me and that’s why I struck out.” Good one.
· Couple of comments from Brian McCann that you might enjoy. First, on his first home opener as a Yankee: “It’s something I’ve been thinking about since I signed here. Today was a special day for me, all around. To see the facilities, put on the pinstripes, it was special. … It was everything I thought it would be. First class all the way. The whole thing, it’s hard to comprehend as a player, coming here from another organization.”
· And here’s McCann on Jeter: “He’s great. He’s cool, calm, collected, no matter what situation he’s in. I got to watch him from a distance, and now to be a part of it today, he’s as professional as they come.”
· And of course the final word goes to Jeter himself: “It’s kind of tough for me to be reflective on something that’s at the beginning of the season. It’s my last home opener, but it’s the first game here this year. It’s kind of hard for me to juggle having emptions for the last when it’s also at the same time the first – if that makes any sense. Home openers are special. I’m pretty sure next year when they have their home opener, I’ll miss it a little bit. I’m excited that we’ve gotten the season underway here, so today was just more excitement than anything.”
Associated Press photos