ST. PETERSBURG — It was Derek Jeter's last, first appearance of the season at Tropicana Field on Thursday as the Yankees captain takes his farewell tour. He received a standing ovation from many in the crowd as he walked to the batter's box. But before reaching the plate, he already was home.
Jeter, 39, has a 38,000-square-foot mansion on Davis Islands, and playing the Rays 19 times per season in the AL East, he has many admirers among Tampa Bay coaches and players.
There is plenty of mythology that deifies Jeter, but his longevity and productivity define him. He's been part of five world championship teams and two more AL pennant-winning teams.
"It's been fun playing against him," Rays 3B Evan Longoria said. "I think without a doubt he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer and probably the most consistent and best player I've ever been around and played against."
Jeter walked, singled in a run and doubled, going 2-for-4 in the Yankees' 10-2 win to raise his average to .295. He also made a dazzling stop to his right to start a double play.
Said Rays INF Sean Rodriguez, "That's basically a great example of what baseball is. You say his name and you think of the prototypical baseball image. I'm proud I got to play against him. Going out, I get to witness it, and that's a blessing in itself."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Jeter should be the first unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame. "I can't even understand why he wouldn't be, based on his career, the number of championships that have been won," Maddon said. "To be able to handle that whole moment as well as he has in that city under the scrutiny that he has, I don't know where the negative is. … He knows I wish him well except when he plays against us."
SEVENTH HEAVEN: Erik Bedard didn't earn a spot in the Rays' rotation in spring training, accepting an assignment to Triple-A Durham. But tonight against the Yankees he will become the seventh starter for the Rays this season.
Bedard, 35, went 4-12 with a 4.59 ERA with the Astros last season. "Breaking him down from last year, the work that he did in Houston, there was a lot of good stuff that he had done there," Maddon said. "A lot of (his) record was probably skewed a little bit. They weren't the best defensive team in the league last year, so he was victimized by that a little bit. Breaking his pitches down, we feel pretty good about getting him right now. He's a competitor."
RAYS' METRICS: The Rays have always used data and metrics to position fielders. That trend has taken off, especially in the AL East, said Maddon, which has contributed to the Rays' hitting woes.
"I really believe with the buy-in by a lot of teams regarding defense, it makes offenses even less productive," Maddon said. "And with the buy-in, all the metric stuff, it makes pitchers more effective. So there's all this buying in going on everywhere all of a sudden, and I really wished they had not, because it really makes our job more difficult because now we're looking in the mirror a lot more often. I really preferred (2008-10) whereas everybody thought we were nuts. … So when you're talking about the razor-thin line between winning the league, this is a laser-thin line. We're almost there and whatever comes after that."
ON YOUR MARK: The Yankees are getting healthier. 1B Mark Teixeira, who has been on the disabled list since April 5 with a right adductor strain, said he will return Sunday against the Rays. "I … will be very disappointed if I don't. I've felt good since Day 3, so I've had no problems," Teixeira said after an extended spring training game at the Yankees' complex in Tampa. "(The injury) was so minor. I would be kicking and fighting to play if it wasn't so early (in the season). The second half of the season, I'd be playing."