The return of Derek Jeter to the Yankees' lineup Thursday meant one more positive step in the team's march toward a sense of normalcy.
Jeter's impact was immediate in the Yankees' 8-4 win over the Royals in an afternoon game at the Stadium.
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Batting second as the designated hitter, Jeter swung at Ervin Santana's first pitch to him in the first and dribbled it toward third for an infield hit when Miguel Tejada couldn't barehand it cleanly.
Running on a 3-and-2 pitch, he advanced to third on Robinson Cano's single to center and scored on Vernon Wells' sacrifice fly.
"He can smell a hit,'' said reliever David Robertson, who struck out three in a scoreless eighth. "He sparked our offense today. It's just great to have him back.''
Jeter finished 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
Entering the game, the Yankees were 19th in the major leagues in runs scored. Jeter's return won't solve all of their offensive problems, but his presence should lift the team's spirits.
"Just having him here, the atmosphere changes,'' said Ichiro Suzuki, who saved a potential run with an over-the-shoulder basket catch in the sixth. "He's just a player that we need on this team, and when he's here you can see it and feel the difference.''
Andy Pettitte, Jeter's teammate for 15 seasons, agreed.
"Obviously, just to have him back is great,'' said Pettitte, who gave up four runs (three earned) in 52/3 innings for the win. "I'm not too sentimental or nostalgic or however you want to pronounce it, but it's great to have Derek Jeter back. It's great to see him in the dugout.''
The day ended on a bit of a sour note, however, as Jeter left the game after feeling tightness in his right quadriceps. Brett Gardner pinch-hit for him in the eighth.
Jeter was scheduled to have a precautionary MRI. If there's no sign of trouble, he will play Friday night, likely as the DH, manager Joe Girardi said.
His quadriceps situation notwithstanding, Jeter's teammates were happy just to see him back at the top of the order.
"Obviously, it's just one game, one day, and it's hard to tell,'' Suzuki said. "Seeing him swing at that first pitch, I think Derek Jeter is back.''