Derek Jeter homers on first pitch

Updated: July 29, 2013, 9:07 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter had no doubts he was ready to return and, one pitch into his second comeback of the season, he showed it.

The Yankees captain homered in his first at-bat Sunday as the Yankees avoided being swept with a 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Jeter finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored as the Yankees won on a game-winning single in the ninth from Alfonso Soriano.

"I said, 'Thank God,' because I didn't want to go out there and play in extra innings because I was tired," said Jeter who spent most of his postgame news conference deflecting questions about himself as he tried to put the focus on Hideki Matsui, who officially retired as a Yankee on Sunday.

Jeter, who started at shortstop and batted second Sunday, stepped to the plate to the familiar recording of legendary Yankee public address announcer Bob Shepard's voice and a standing ovation.

Jeter then nailed a Matt Moore fastball the other way, just over the wall in right field.

Robinson Cano, the next batter due up, waited for Jeter to acknowledge the second standing ovation. Jeter quickly appeared at the top step and waived to the crowd.

"He's a movie," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

It was the first Yankee homer by a right-handed hitter since June 25, a span of 28 games and the first in second half. Since the All-Star break, the Yankees are 4-6 and have had trouble scoring runs.

"We need contributions from a lot of people," Jeter said. "It is not like I'm some savior."

Jeter was eligible to come off the disabled list on Saturday. Instead, the Yankees shrouded Jeter's final tuneup, a simulated game in Staten Island, in secrecy, only revealing it after Jeter had successfully completed his work against Single-A competition.

"It wasn't my idea," Jeter said before the game. "They wanted to see some things. For me, I didn't have any doubts."

Prior to Sunday, the 39-year-old Jeter had missed all but one of the Yankees' games because of a twice-fractured ankle and strained quad.

Jeter missed the first 91 games of the season before coming back as a designated hitter and going 1-for-4 on July 11 against the Kansas City Royals. He strained the calf running the bases that day and has been out since.

Girardi would like Jeter to "run under control," at least until the injury heals.

But Girardi acknowledged that's going to be tough for Jeter, who has always been known for his hustle.

"Well, the last time I checked, they don't give me a bungee cord that I can attach to him when he's hitting," Girardi said. "So the only thing I can do is just continue to preach it to him.

"I've told him once, and I'll tell him again when the game starts today, 'I know it's not in your DNA, but we're gonna have to find a way to run under control when it calls for it. But if there's a situation where you have to run hard, you're gonna have to run hard. But you have to protect your leg and your body for a few days and get through this.'"

Girardi said he thought Jeter had more life in his body than he did his first time back.

"I would agree with you wholeheartedly," Girardi said. "I thought he was running better. I told him before the game began. You've got to take it easy. I thought he did a good job of managing that."

Jeter said he doesn't want to change how he runs, but he knows he must.

"I feel awkward doing it," Jeter said. "I don't like doing it. I hope nobody watches me do it and they try to do it. I've run hard my entire career. I think you can still run hard, but under control."

To make room for Jeter on the roster, the Yankees placed struggling DH Travis Hafner on the disabled list. Hafner has a strained right rotator cuff strain. He suffered the injury in the Yankees' 10-6 loss to the Rays on Friday.

In 81 games this season, as the Yankees' primary DH against right-handed pitching, Hafner is hitting .205 with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs.

ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo contributed to this report.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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