NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter's 19th season officially started Thursday afternoon when he headed to the batter's box to a loud standing ovation that lasted more than 30 seconds.
After nearly nine months of dealing with two fractures in his right ankle, talking about all the preparation and rehab associated with healing an injury, Jeter was officially back.
"It's a huge difference, no disrespect to any rehab assignment that you do, but it's Yankee Stadium," Jeter said. "Being back here, I was nervous going into the game. It's almost like it's Opening Day even through what are we in July now, I lost track of the months. So it felt good to be out there. The fans were great. They gave me a nice ovation.
"It's been a long time. I've done a lot of rehab to get to this point. It felt good to finally be out there playing a game."
A minute later, he had his first hit on the first pitch he saw, a 95 mph fastball from Ervin Santana. It was one of the types of hits that Jeter has often attained, a slow roller that became an infield hit.
"I think the guys are excited that he's back," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's such a big part of this organization for so long. It's great to see him. It's nice for me to put him in the lineup."
Jeter came back perhaps a day earlier but that was out of necessity since starting designated hitter Travis Hafner injured his foot Wednesday night. The Yankees had planned for him to DH in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, but once that happened, they figured why not in the major leagues instead?
"He's going to finish his rehab in the big leagues," general manager Brian Cashman said before the game. "It's just the roster changes that occurred in the game last night made us do some adjustments, obviously Hafner going down. Derek was going to be the DH in Scranton tonight. So we lost Hafner in a day-to-day situation and we right away the thought popped in my head."
Playing in his first major league game since Game One of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers on Oct. 13, Jeter went 1-for-4, made it from first to third, scored a run and drove in a run in an evenutal 8-4 Yankees win over Kansas City.
The only damper on the return was tightness in his right quadriceps that will get tested with an MRI.
"He did OK," Girardi said. "He has not had a lot of at-bats. He got a hit, scored a run, he drove in a run. So I'll take that every day."
In his first at-bat, Jeter did a half check-swing on a 95 mph fastball. Miguel Tejada was playing halfway at third and Jeter hit in his direction. Tejada had to bare hand the ball as Jeter sprinted toward first base but was unable to get the out.
"Did you me kick-start it today," Jeter joked about his first hit. "I kick-started it today in the first inning but really my job has always been to try and get on base and score a run."
He grounded out his second at-bat before hitting a hard grounder that seemed to be a single to right field his third time up. But the play was made by Kansas City second baseman Johnny Giavotella, who ranged to his left and made a diving stop. Jeter's final at-bat of a day was another groundout to short.
The play initially was not made, allowing a run to score, but eventually Jeter was thrown out. It was at that point that concern went up about a potential injury to Jeter, but the Yankees are anticipating it is not enough to spoil the day they've waited for all season.