Derek Jeter makes successful return

TAMPA, Fla. -- The first game of Derek Jeter's final spring training was uneventful, which is probably how the New York Yankees wanted it to be.

Jeter, who missed all but 17 games last season due to a series of injuries related to the broken ankle he suffered in the 2012 postseason, came to bat twice and grounded out twice.

"It was good to get back in a game. I feel like I haven't played in a game in a couple of years. Today was the first time I've swung off live pitching, so it's good to get the first game out of the way and get into a routine of playing in games," Jeter said.

The first of those at-bats was a first-inning double play, the second a close play at first on a bouncer to deep third. Jeter had to hustle down the line and his last-second duck to avoid a wide throw may have slowed him up just enough to cost him the bag.

Even though he came up empty in the box score, Jeter came up big in other ways.

He saw eight pitches in his first at-bat, fouling off two two-strike pitches from Pirates starter Charlie Morton, and seemingly suffered no ill-effects from his 90-foot sprint in his fourth inning at-bat, taking his position at shortstop for the top of the fifth and handling a throw from Francisco Cervelli that ended the inning on a caught stealing.

All in all, it was a successful return for Jeter, who had not appeared in a game since Sept. 7, when he was removed after an RBI single against the Red Sox with soreness in his ankle and was shut down for the season four days later.

"It's the same spring as I've always had. I'm not treating it any differently. I don't think [manager Joe Girardi is] treating it any different. What did I play today, five innings? I think I might have played more today than I did any first day of spring training up to this point," Jeter said.

In fact, the only disparate note in an otherwise good day for the Yankees -- they were tied 1-1 when Jeter left the game after five innings without handling a chance in the field -- came from the stands, where at least half of the seats at George M. Steinbrenner Field went unoccupied, possibly because of a forecast of rain in the afternoon.

"I thought he ran pretty hard today down to first, and that was really good to see, because we haven't seen that in a while. You gotta go back to 2012. So that's a great sign for us and a great sign for him," Girardi said.

Girardi said Jeter would not play Friday against Tigers in Lakeland but will play Saturday at home vs. the Phillies. He is unlikely to play back-to-back games until later in the spring.

''But I'll see. If he says he wants to go back to back and we think it's a good idea, we'll do it," he said.