Curtis Granderson caught a few fly balls, ran around the bases and got to enjoy a win.
No matter that he didn’t get a hit this time.
The slugging outfielder became the first of the Yankees’ injured All-Stars to return to the lineup, and New York beat the Seattle Mariners 4-3 Tuesday night for its seventh victory in eight games.
Granderson rejoined the team 2 1/2 months after he broke his right forearm in his first at-bat of spring training, struck by a pitch from Toronto’s J.A. Happ.
”It was like another opening day. Nerves coming into it since it’s the first game of the 2013 season, to be here in Yankee Stadium since the first time last season, and all those different things ran through in terms of emotions and excitement,” he said.
”To get the first ball, to get the first at-bat, to get the first game out of the way, it’s definitely a bit of a relief. Now we move forward and just get back to playing baseball.”
Still sidelined are shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira and third baseman Alex Rodriguez. They haven’t played this season and while Teixeira could be back within a month, Jeter and A-Rod are likely out until the second half.
Infielders Kevin Youkilis and Eduardo Nunez and catcher Francisco Cervelli also are on the disabled list after getting hurt during the season.
Granderson was activated from the disabled list and made his first start in left field since 2005. Brett Gardner stayed in center, with Ichiro Suzuki in right.
”It was interesting. I was trying to get my bearings in terms of depth,” Granderson said.
Along with getting positioning tips from coach Rob Thomson, Granderson said he was ”talking to Gardner, moving left, right and as the game went on, I got more comfortable.”
The public-address announcer said ”Welcome back” when introducing Granderson in the starting lineup. He went 0 for 3 with a walk, and also hit the ball that caused all the trouble for Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
Seattle took a 3-0 lead against CC Sabathia into the sixth inning. With a runner on first and one out, Granderson tapped a comebacker. Hernandez fielded the ball in front of the mound, pivoted and snapped a throw to second for a forceout.
But Hernandez tweaked his back on the play, an injury that he said wasn’t serious. He stayed in, gave up an RBI double to Lyle Overbay and was pulled after the inning ended.
The Yankees trailed 3-1 in the seventh when Mariners reliever Yoervis Medina gave up a leadoff single to Chris Nelson, who went to second on a wild pitch. Charlie Furbush (0-2) entered with one out and walked Gardner before Robinson Cano tied it with a two-run double off the base of the wall in right-center.
Vernon Wells was intentionally walked, Granderson walked to load the bases and Overbay hit a sac fly to center that put the Yankees ahead.
Shawn Kelley (2-0) got two outs in the seventh. Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth to remain perfect in 16 save chances this season.
Sabathia, who had won his last eight starts against Seattle, struck out 10 in 6 1/3 innings while giving up 10 hits. Raul Ibanez tagged him for a two-run homer in his return to Yankee Stadium.
Granderson took no more chances with future fractures, wearing an elbow guard and extra protection on the top of his hand.
”I’m padded up pretty well,” he said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi thinks Granderson will provide a boost to a team that has overcome injuries and held first place in the AL East.
”I think guys are excited and feel a little lift that Grandy’s in there,” Girardi said.
Wells, who had been playing left field, moved to designated hitter. Girardi didn’t anticipate trouble in finding playing time for everyone.
”Spread it around a little bit,” he said. ”You can’t expect Grandy to go seven or eight days in a row right out of the chute.”
Granderson was 8 for 20 with one homer and three RBIs during his rehab stint at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He also played several games in extended spring training.
Granderson led New York with 43 homers last season. He was injured on Feb. 24 and the three-time All-Star originally had hoped to be ready to play during the first week of May.
”I knew the time was going to come, sooner than later,” Granderson said.
Jeter (broken left ankle), Rodriguez (left hip surgery), Teixeira (torn tendon sheath in his right wrist), Youkilis (lumbar spine sprain), Cervelli (broken right hand) and Nunez (soreness on left side) remain on the DL.
New York optioned left-hander Vidal Nuno to Triple-A, a day after he beat Cleveland in his first major league start.
Nuno hadn’t pitched for nearly two weeks before earning the win in Cleveland. He said his stay with the Yankees was a valuable one.
”It’s knowing that I can pitch here, that I belong here,” he said. ”Now, it’s just timing.”
NOTES: DH Travis Hafner was out of the Yankees’ lineup because of a sore right shoulder that’s been bothering him. Girardi said Hafner would have an MRI and get a couple days off as a precaution.