The Captain has returned.
Derek Jeter, batting his in his customary No. 2 spot in the Yankees batting order, arrived back to the Bronx this afternoon, just in time for a matinee against the Kansas City Royals.
Before reaching base on an infield single against Royals right-handed pitcher Ervin Santana, Jeter was announced to a standing ovation, behind new walk-up music and the noticeable absence of a familiar voice serenading the crowd with his introduction.
Naturally, the ovation for the Yankees captain was raucous, actually starting during the top of the first inning, despite Jeter not playing the field this afternoon. Bronx fans included Jeter in the their roll call ritual even though he was penciled in as the designated hitter rather than his usual spot at shortstop.
Jeter's potential walk-up music was a topic of conversation on Twitter heading into the afternoon, and the captain didn't disappoint, choosing a new tune, Square Dance by Eminem, to lead into his first stroll of the season from the on-deck circle to his familiar spot in the right-handed batters box at Yankee Stadium.
Before the excitement of Jeter's offense could take place, there was a noticeable murmur in the crowd, confusion on the broadcast and outrage on social media about the missing ingredient to Jeter's return: Bob Shepard, the late, great Yankees public address announcer, welcoming Jeter with the recording the team has used since his passing.
Within an inning, the source of the issue was discovered. Technical difficulties forced the Yankees to move away from Shepard's call in the first inning.
Last, but certainly not least, was the at-bat.
Heading into the afternoon, the Yankees had received the 29th best, or worst, depending on your point of view, OPS from their shortstop position this season. Although Jeter is technically in the DH spot on Thursday, he's returning to mostly play shortstop and boost New York's offense from the spot.
His first plate appearance didn't disappoint. After an infield single, Jeter ran on a pitch to Robinson Cano, scampered to third base and later scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Vernon Wells. Within one inning, Jeter provided more of a spark on offense than his replacements did over the course of some series or even weeks.
The jury is still out on Jeter's long-term health, effectiveness and durability over the course of this summer and beyond. A case can be made that rushing Jeter back to the team on Thursday or anytime this coming weekend before the All-Star break was foolhardy, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made the call last night, looking to insert the 39-year-old back into the lineup immediately.
Looking forward, New York is scheduled to face a left-handed pitcher, Scott Diamond, when Minnesota arrives for a weekend series on Friday.
For his career, Jeter has mashed southpaws to the tune of a .911 OPS. In other words, having Derek Jeter in the lineup against a left-handed pitcher is like summoning Dick Allen or Matt Holliday into the middle of the order. Despite not being known as a power hitter, Jeter profiles as one against lefties.
From the ovation to the performance, the opening act of Jeter's 2013 season was a success. Moving forward, it will have to continue to be one for the Yankees to survive and thrive in the AL East and Wildcard races.
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