Derek Jeter returns with a first-pitch base hit

TAMPA, Fla -- They call it Legends Field, and the Yankees’ spring training home sure lived up to that name on Saturday.

Mariano Rivera’s retirement announcement wasn’t the only headline-inducing item of the day: Derek Jeter returned to action for the first time since fracturing his ankle in the playoffs last October and went 1 for 2 as the designated hitter.

Best thing of all, Jeter said, was that it felt good to play in a real game again after a winter of healing and rehabbing. Until Saturday’s Grapefruit League game against the Braves, the only live pitching Jeter has seen since October came earlier in the week against Andy Pettitte.

“There were no defenders out there,” Jeter said. “That was awkward.”

He drilled the first pitch he saw in the first inning for a line single into left field.

Second at-bat, he saw a couple of pitches before bouncing out to third base.

“Good to be back,” Jeter said. “It felt good to be out there.”

When someone asked whether Jeter ran full speed to first base, he joked: “72 percent.”

The plan from here, he thinks, is to DH one more game and then return to shortstop the next time he plays. He acknowledged that moving laterally in the field probably will be a little more difficult than batting.

“You can’t really prepare for some things that happen in games,” Jeter said. “You can practice all you want.”

Otherwise, he said, he’s good to go and eager to tackle the rest of the spring.

“Just a normal spring training,” he said. “Get more and more comfortable. See more pitching, more at-bats, more running around the bases.”

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