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Chase Headley quickly becomes a hit with Yankees

Chase Headley of the Yankees leads off second

Chase Headley of the Yankees leads off second base in the second inning against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Chase Headley woke up Wednesday, rubbed his eyes and reached to scratch his beard. It was gone. It wasn't a dream. He wasn't in San Diego anymore.

And that bizarre, heady introduction to Yankee Stadium -- getting there in the second inning, stroking a walk-off hit in the 14th, and the Gatorade shower and fist bumps from guys whose hands he hadn't even shaken -- that actually happened.

"It's a good way to introduce yourself," Headley said before getting the first hit for the Yankees -- a two-out, second-inning double against Yu Darvish -- in Wednesday night's rain-delayed game.

"It kind of breaks the ice with the new teammates," he said of Tuesday's single. "I couldn't have drawn it up any better. Maybe if I did it a couple innings earlier, give us a couple of innings off our feet, but . . . it was a great way to finish a special day."

It was also, he mentioned, just a bit strange. A day ago, he was in his eighth season with the Padres, the only major-league club he'd ever played for; last night, he was starting at third base for the Yankees and living in a hotel. "When you've been somewhere so long, it's a strange feeling waking up somewhere that you're not accustomed to," Headley said. And he'd had that beard for "three, four or five years," Headley added.

The new Yankee is clean- shaven now and his wife, he said, is pleased. But there could be more changes ahead. Manager Joe Girardi said that Headley could be an option at first base and that he'd even consider using him in the outfield.

Girardi hasn't had that conversation with him yet, but Headley said the outfield "would take probably a bit more work than moving to first base, but basically, I'll be willing to do whatever I have to."

The good news for Headley is that he's up to the challenge now that he's healing from the slew of injuries that have hindered his production in the last two years. In 2012, he hit .286 with 115 RBIs and 31 home runs, but problems with his hand, back and a surgically repaired torn meniscus have dropped his numbers to .230 this year, with 33 RBIs and seven homers entering Wednesday. His knee felt fine, he said, and he was confident that the epidurals he's had on his back would make surgery unnecessary.

Headley understands he'll have to do all his healing under greater-than-usual scrutiny and for that he's prepared. His parents told him not to look at the newspapers when he first got into baseball, "and my agent is out of New York and gave me the head's up to stay out of it," he said.

It seems fitting that Wednesday, he received a text from his agent. "He told me to look" at the newspapers, Headley said, "but I'm staying away from it."

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