HOUSTON - At the news conference announcing his intention to retire after this season, Derek Jeter emphasized one point several times. "This is not a retirement press conference,'' he said Feb. 19. "I still have a season to play.''
That season, his 20th and final one, begins Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park, where the careers of longtime Jeter teammates Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte officially concluded last year.
"I can't tell you what tomorrow will be like until we get to tomorrow, but I would assume it's like every other Opening Day,'' Jeter said Monday before a team workout here. "I'm trying to treat it like every other Opening Day, and every Opening Day is special, where you have butterflies and you have nerves. I think that's a good thing, but I don't foresee this being any different.''
Pettitte will take part in a ceremony honoring Jeter before Wednesday night's game, as will Roger Clemens.
"It's always good to see those guys, especially Andy, being with Andy for so long, but Rocket as well,'' Jeter said near the end of spring training when the Astros announced their plans. "I don't know what they have planned, but I look forward to seeing them.''
Exactly what he has to look forward to on the field is anyone's guess. Jeter, limited to 17 games in 2013 because of injuries, has said he expects to be as productive as ever. The Yankees, at least publicly, have said the same.
Jeter's spring training results were mixed. He never looked good at the plate, hitting .137 with a .214 OBP in 18 games. But numerous scouts said he moved well -- relatively speaking for a 39-year-old coming off the injuries he battled -- to his left and right and made all the plays you'd expect.
Joe Girardi said he won't make any forecasts for Jeter but added that getting through spring training healthy was most important for him.
"Baseball's too hard to predict,'' Girardi said. "As far as being physically ready, I know that he's physically ready, I know he's mentally ready.''
And with the same expectations for himself and the team.
"I expect us to compete and I expect us to have an opportunity to win,'' Jeter said. "We're excited about the group we have here now. We have a lot of talent, but you have to go out on the field and play. It's a long season. I'm not one to get into predictions or comparisons. We had a good spring; now we're hoping to have a good season.''