Jeter lovefest begins as he helps Yankees beat Orioles in home opener
Feted by fans and celebrated by teammates throughout his final Opening Day in the Bronx, Derek Jeter hardly felt as if he was starting his 20th big league season at home.
Jeter gave Yangervis Solarte some assistance with Yankee Stadium tradition, then the rookie helped make the captain a winner Monday as New York beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-2.
"I don’t want to jinx anything but it felt really good," Jeter said. "It felt like maybe my first home opener. It was a fun time for me."
Missing from the win was new Yankees closer David Robertson. He strained his groin and will be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Jeter doubled high off the left-field wall, nearly getting thrown out at second after he started out in a home run trot before turning up the speed, and scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s first hit in pinstripes in the fifth. Hiroki Kuroda (1-1) pitched 6-1/3 sharp innings in the Yankees’ 112th opener in New York.
Teammates in the dugout teased Jeter for his near blunder.
"For Derek, at 40, we’re going to let it slide," said injured first baseman Mark Teixeira, pushing Jeter’s 40th birthday up a couple of months from June.
In what manager Joe Girardi said would be a season-long lovefest for Jeter, the shortstop was cheered every step of the way by an adoring crowd of 48, 142 — even when his double-play grounder back to Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez (0-2) scored rookie Solarte in the third inning for the first run.
Solarte, a career minor leaguer and nonroster invitee to spring training, continued a torrid start as the suspended Alex Rodriguez’s replacement at third base with a go-ahead RBI single in the fourth inning.
Playing in his first game in the Bronx, Solarte needed Jeter to tell him to wave to the Bleacher Creatures when they chanted his name during pregame roll call.
"Every day I look and Derek Jeter is playing next to me. I saw him since I was little and I could never even fathom that I would get to play with him on the same field," Solarte said. "Every day I try to learn something from him."
The Orioles got RBI singles from Matt Wieters and Nelson Cruz in falling to 2-5. Adam Jones and Chris Davis struck out against Adam Warren with a runner on in the eighth and trailing 4-2.
Matt Thornton, David Phelps, Warren and Shawn Kelley combined for hitless relief. Kelley pitched a perfect ninth for his first career save.
Robertson was hurt Sunday during his third outing as Mariano Rivera’s replacement at the back end of the bullpen after a major league-record 562 saves.
"Other guys get a chance to step up, and you expect them to step up and get the job done in his absence," Girardi said.
After missing all but 17 games last season, Jeter announced Feb. 12 this would be his final season. His retirement tour started on the road, where New York went 3-3 against Houston and Toronto.
But Jeter, who went 1 for 4, has said the season doesn’t really start until the Yankees have had their home opener, and to help celebrate the team brought together the five-time World Series champion Core Four. Recently retired teammates Andy Pettitte and Rivera threw ceremonial first pitches to Jeter and Jorge Posada, who retired after 2011.
With an era coming to a close, change was evident everywhere.
Robertson moved into Rivera’s locker. Carlos Beltran was given Robinson Cano’s choice spot next to the door leading to the players’ off-limits sanctuary.
And the only evidence that Rodriguez — banned for the year because of his involvement in the Biogenesis drug scandal — is still a member of the Yankees was in a new series of paintings hanging in the hallway leading to the clubhouse that celebrate New York’s recent World Series championships.
Solarte scored New York’s first run, starting the third with a walk after falling behind 0-2. He went 1 for 3, just missing a homer, and is 9 for 20 this season with six RBI.
The Orioles got the run right back in the fourth when Jones singled, moved to second when Gardner made a leaping catch in foul territory down the line in left on Davis’ popup and scored on Wieters’ single.
Leading 2-1, the Yankees chased Jimenez in the fifth after former Orioles star Brian Roberts walked to load the bases. But Zach Britton entered and walked Kelly Johnson to make it 4-1.
"I let my team down there," Britton said.
Jimenez yielded four runs and eight hits, walked five and struck out four in his second shaky start since signing a four-year contract in February.
"He was just missing with some pitches," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It was a cold day, and he was trying to get a feel for the baseball."
NOTES: The Yankees improved to 14-2 in season openers Jeter played in. . . . SS J.J. Hardy was not in the starting lineup for the second straight game because of back spasms. . . . Orioles LHP Johan Santana (shoulder surgery) was set to throw a two-inning simulated game. . . . Yogi Berra was at Yankee Stadium but did not participate in the pregame ceremony. . . . Ellsbury had seven hits in the Yankees’ opening road trip before putting on the home pinstripes.