While New York Yankees home openers have often proved special through the years, the 2014 one will likely carry a little more significance.
That's because Yankees captain Derek Jeter will play his final one in what's been a storied 20 seasons in pinstripes Monday against the Baltimore Orioles.Jeter has said this will be his final season, and he was already feted with gifts in the club's opening series in Houston. The shortstop, who turns 40 on June 26, didn't get too many from opposing pitchers in his first four games, going 2 for 11 before singling twice in a 6-4 win in Toronto on Sunday.The second hit was the 3,320th of his career and moved him past Paul Molitor for eighth on the all-time list.Jeter will be reunited with the three other members of the "Core Four" that helped add five World Series title to the franchise's already abundant collection. Yankees legends Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are scheduled to throw out first pitches to Jeter and former catcher Jorge Posada.Jeter's parents, Charles and Dorothy, are also expected to be in attendance."There's always something special about Opening Day," manager Joe Girardi told the team's official website. "To know that it's your last one, I think it will mean a lot."A more welcoming crowd might pull Jeter fully out of that slow start after an injury-plagued 2013. He was limited to just 17 games because of various ailments and was shut down for good Sept. 8 because of issues with his surgically repaired left ankle."It almost doesn't feel like the season is underway until you get to your home opener," Jeter said. "Especially missing last year, I'm looking forward to this one."He'll try to produce some more hits while helping New York (3-3) earn its fourth win in five games. The Yankees scored three runs in the first inning Sunday, and Brett Gardner drove in two of the club's three in the fourth frame with New York's first homer of the season.Hiroki Kuroda is hoping for a similar performance from his teammates after getting little support in his season debut. The right-hander gave up two runs, three hits and a walk over six innings Wednesday in Houston but was on the hook for a 3-1 defeat.A visit from Baltimore (2-4) might help him get in the win column Monday. Kuroda pitched 16 scoreless innings in his two home starts against the Orioles in 2013, though he gave up five homers over eight innings in a pair of losses at Baltimore.A couple of home runs hurt counterpart Ubaldo Jimenez in his Orioles debut Wednesday. The right-hander gave up a pair of two-run shots in his six innings of a 6-2 home loss to Boston.Despite going into an unfriendly atmosphere Monday, manager Buck Showalter thinks there will be less pressure on Jimenez."It's going to be tough environment, Opening Day at Yankee Stadium," he told his team's official website. "(Compared with) Opening Day at Camden Yards, which one do you think is tougher? I think our place. I think the expectation of pitching well at our place."I want him to feel like he's playing with house money. Nobody is expecting him (to win); they feel like that's going to be a real challenge. I think it's tougher for professional athletes when they are expected to do well."Jimenez was tagged for seven runs over 4 1/3 innings in his only meeting with the Yankees last season, an 11-6 home loss for Cleveland on April 8. He went 0-3 with a 8.22 ERA in his three starts against New York while wearing an Indians uniform.J.J. Hardy's status is unknown after he was scratched with back spasms before Sunday's 3-1 win in Detroit, which snapped the Orioles' four-game slide."Frankly, it's not much better now," Showalter said after the game.New York second baseman Brian Roberts will face his former club for the first time. Roberts played 13 seasons with Baltimore but had four injury-plagued ones before signing a one-year deal with the Yankees in January.
Hiroki Kuroda allowed just a .195 on-base percentage in plate appearances that ended with a splitter in 2013, which was 2nd-best in MLB. Since 2011, Adam Jones has just a .167 OBP in plate appearances that end with a splitter (8th-worst in MLB among players with at least 30 PA in those instances), and his teammate Nick Markakis holds just a .163 mark, which is 7th-worst in the league over that span.