Derek Jeter has last home opener


NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter's final home opener of his career was a fairly typical one for him. Everything worked out in the end -- even when he uncharacteristically failed to hustle.

After the retiring Jeter was lauded with his fellow Core Four members -- Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada -- before the game, the 39-year-old Jeter thought a long shot down the left field line was going out of the park.

"You get caught up in Opening Day," said Jeter, who was able to joke afterward because he slid in head first for a double in the fifth and then scored a run in the Yankees' 4-2 win against the Baltimore Orioles. "I thought it was a home run. I hit it good enough to be one. It just wasn't. It didn't go out. You probably haven't seen it. You probably won't see it again. I was safe. It would be a lot more embarrassing if I were out."

In the dugout afterward, Jeter, who is the captain of the team of teasing teammates, heard ribbing from his teammates about his inability to muscle the ball through the wind and for not racing out of the box.

"He always is telling everyone else, 'You can't leave, you can't hit it out,' so we got to tease him back today," Brian Roberts said.

During the ceremonial first pitches, Pettitte and Rivera threw to Jeter and Posada. Right before Rivera tossed to Jeter and Pettitte fired to Posada, PA announcer Paul Olden said, "Once more: the Core Four."

Both retired pitchers, Pettitte and Rivera, threw accurately.

"I asked Derek who he wanted to catch," Posada said afterward. "And I said, 'Mo's throwing sinkers and cutters.' He said, 'I'm going to catch Andy.' "

Jeter was constantly talking with young and old fans, while in the on-deck circle seemingly taking in every moment.

"It was a fun day," Jeter said. "It was fun right from the start with Andy, Mo and Jorge."

In the first inning, Jeter stepped to the plate and the sellout crowd stood and rhythmically chanted his name, "Derek Jeter, Derek Jeter, Derek Jeter," throughout the first pitch.

"They've treated me with respect," Jeter said of the fans during the pregame news conference. "I've always said that Yankees fans are the greatest fans in the world. That is no disrespect to any other team or any other sport. That's just how I feel."

Jeter would go down on strikes against Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Jeter finished the day 1-for-4 with a run scored. After six games, he is hitting .250.

During the introductions of the starting lineups, Jeter received a slightly louder ovation than his teammates, but it wasn't overwhelming. In the top of the first inning, the Bleacher Creatures, during their traditional roll call, were a little more vociferous for Jeter than the other position players. Jeter, as all Yankees customarily do during the chant, gave them a wave of his glove. There was a cheer afterward.

Jeter said he did not know if he would take a memento from his final opener.

"I haven't thought about it," Jeter said. "I think Steiner takes everything."

Steiner Sports is the memorabilia wing of the Yankees' franchise and typically authenticates items from the team's big events.

Early in the season, Jeter has moved up in the franchise and Major League Baseball's record books. Jeter has played in 20 seasons, which is the most in team history, breaking a tie with Rivera. On Sunday, Jeter passed Paul Molitor to move into eighth place on the all-time hits list. With 3,320 hits, Jeter needs 99 more to pass Carl Yastrzemski for seventh.

In 2013, the Yankees' season was highlighted by Rivera's farewell, culminating last September, when Jeter and Pettitte came out to the mound to remove him during his final appearance of his career.

"The last time that I pitched there was a good moment," Rivera said. "When these guys took me out of the game. I had great time [on Monday]."

While enjoying all the tributes, Jeter says he cannot lose sight of the fact that he has to prepare to perform.

"I get the fact that I have to play a game," Jeter said. "I have to play a season. I think not enjoying is not the right way to put it. I think balancing it is the better way to put it."

With five championship rings, beginning in 1996, Jeter has become the team's most popular player over the past two decades.

"I've always had a great relationship with the fans," Jeter said. "They've pretty much saw me grow up since I was 20 years old."