The 19-year veteran retired Sunday after pitching to one batter
in New York's 2-0 win over the Cleveland Indians. He and several
Yankees had just returned from the World Baseball Classic, and New
York was all together for the first time since the exhibition
Leiter, a 40-year-old left-hander with two World Series rings,
had hinted about calling it a career for some time. The end became
official in the seventh inning when he got Cleveland's Eduardo Perez to ground out to third, the only batter he faced.
Time was called, and Leiter handed the ball to Yankees pitching
coach Ron Guidry. Alex Rodriguez patted him on the head and he
began a slow, teary walk off the field for the final time.
He sat in New York's dugout until the Yankees turned an
inning-ending double play, then got hugs and warm wishes from his
"It feels good to be able to go out on your own terms," Leiter
said. "I love the game very much, but when you were a certain type
of player for a few years, being a front-end starter, that's the
way I still think I can pitch. But the body tells you no.
"It feels right. Family, kids, I'm constantly being asked when
I'm coming home."
Perez, the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez, was thrilled to be a
small part of Leiter's retirement.
"We go way back and it was an honor to be his last hitter,"
Perez said. "He's a class act. The competitor, the cutter, the
never-say-die attitude. That's been Al Leiter."
Earlier, Leiter, a two-time All-Star who pitched a no-hitter in
1996, soaked in his last day in uniform as a major leaguer. He
posed for photos with Yankees manager Joe Torre and spent about 15
minutes chatting with New York general manager Brian Cashman.
Leiter, a second-round draft pick by the Yankees who made his
major league debut with New York in 1987, finished with a record of
162-132 and won World Series titles with Toronto (1993) and Florida
(1997). He also pitched for the New York Mets.
Leiter, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter and Rodriguez all returned to
the Yankee lineup Sunday after playing for the American team, which
was bounced early from the WBC. Bernie Williams, too, was back
after playing in the tournament for Puerto Rico.
Seeing his stars back was pleasing for Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had reservations about his players missing a
prolonged period. The only Opening-Day starter not in Sunday's
lineup was catcher Jorge Posada.
Yankees starter Randy Johnson looked in midseason form, pitching
six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts. The Big Unit didn't
walk a batter and had little trouble with a depleted Cleveland
"We had a shot of energy today, those guys being back," Torre
said. "I think they were happy to be back, too. It's nice to put a
team on the field more like Opening Day."
New York scored two runs in the first off Indians starter Jason
Johnson, who asked out of a minor league game so he could pitch
against the Yankees. The right-hander gave up seven hits in five
A bright spot for Cleveland was 22-year-old Fausto Carmona, who
pitched three scoreless innings.
"I think you can see the confidence growing in that young
man," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He has had an outstanding
camp and he most definitely has everybody's attention."
Back in Yankee blue and back at shortstop, Jeter made an error
moments into the game.
Cleveland leadoff hitter Jason Michaels hit a grounder to Jeter,
whose throw was up the line and pulled first baseman Jason Giambi
off the bag. After a stolen base, Casey Blake singled to give the
Indians runners at the corners.
Jeter made up for his miscue in the bottom of the inning when he
followed Damon's single with an RBI double. Giambi followed with an
RBI single to make it 2-0.
Damon (shoulder tendinitis) plans to play the field for the
first time this spring on Wednesday against Boston. ... Former
Indians and Yankees OF David Justice, now a broadcaster for the YES
Network, visited with friends in both clubhouses before the game.
He's still in great shape but has no thoughts about coming out of
retirement. "I may look like a Mercedes Benz," he said with a
laugh. "But I got 300,000 miles on me." ... Yankees RHP Jaret
Wright, battling for a spot in the rotation, hurt his back fielding
bunts during a pregame drill. He'll be reevaluated Monday. ...
Yankees RHP Carl Pavano (back) threw 34 pitches in his first
batting practice session. Pavano, who will start the season on the
disabled list, could be ready by mid-April. ... Posada (flulike
symptoms) missed his fourth straight game but caught Yankees closer
Mariano Rivera, who pitched two scoreless innings against Tampa
Bay's Triple-A club.