Derek Jeter gears up for final home opener

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter trots out onto the field Opening Day 2011.
Credit: Getty Images

Derek Jeter does not possess Yogi Berra’s 10 championship rings, Mickey Mantle’s Triple Crown or even an MVP but heading into his final home opener on Monday, Jeter has a comfortable position on baseball’s all-time hit list.

Since reaching 3,000 hits with a home run on July 9, 2011, Jeter has passed 19 other members of the 3,000-hit club. The latest was Paul Molitor, who Jeter moved passed Sunday with his fourth hit of the season.

“It’s special. I grew up watching Paul, I played against him briefly and I have a lot of respect for him and his career,” Jeter told reporters in Toronto. “Anytime you talk about eighth in anything, it’s special, so it definitely means a lot.”

“We’re the ones always yelling for the baseball when he gets a hit so were aware of what’s going on,” manager Joe Girardi said. “But when you think about some of the names that he’s passing at this point, it’s pretty amazing.”

Still that’s the extent of Jeter’s commentary on the occasion since the Yankees have their home opener Monday against Baltimore.

“It feels good. I’d be lying to you if I said otherwise,” Jeter said. “It’s an accomplishment. I take a lot of pride in it. But I’m not going to go home and celebrate because we have another game tomorrow.”

Jeter is 15-for-59 in home openers with home runs in the 2006 opener against the Royals and the Angels in 2010. Besides last year’s 8-2 loss to Boston, Jeter also was on the DL for the 2001 and 2003 home openers.

The Yankee captain will participate Monday in the ceremonial first pitch ceremony with Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Pettitte and Rivera will throw out the ceremonial first pitches and Jeter and Posada will catch them.

It will mark the Yankees’ first appearance at the stadium since the emotional night of Sept. 26 when Rivera walked off the mound while emotionally embracing Pettitte and Jeter in what was otherwise a meaningless game since the Yankees were out of playoff contention.

“I saw them all in Panama, but it will be nice to see them all together again,” Jeter said. “But I’ve caught first pitches before and they’re really 30 seconds, so that won’t interfere.”

Besides seeing Jeter, Yankee fans will be introduced to 15 players who were not on the Opening Day active roster last season. Among them will be Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts.

All but Pineda are part of the nearly half a billion dollar spending spree the Yankees went on in the wake of missing the playoffs and having Rivera’s last game taking place after the team was officially eliminated from postseason contention.

Ellsbury is batting .333 (7-for-21) with three stolen bases in his first six games of a seven-year contract. McCann is hitting .238 (5-for-21) in the first five games of a five-year deal, while Beltran is 3-for-19 (.158) in the first five games of a three-year deal.

All three will be introduced as starters as well as Roberts and Johnson. Roberts is 3-for-17 and Johnson, who is 4-for-18, will be manning first base until Mark Teixeira returns from the hamstring injury suffered on Friday.

Since the Yankees opened their season on the road, CC Sabathia will not start. Instead, Hiroki Kuroda will make his second start in the home opener and Yankee fans will be hoping he can repeat his performance from two years ago when he pitched eight shutout innings against the Angels.

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.



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