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Must C Curtis: Grandy does it with his glove and bat

NEW YORK -- There was no way to tell if Curtis Granderson's smile was wider after his tiebreaking home run on Thursday, or if he beamed brighter after one of his two outstanding catches in center field.

Granderson seemed happy with all of it, and so were his teammates, as his second season in pinstripes opened by helping power the Yankees past the Tigers, 6-3, on Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

"The big thing is just getting the first one out of 162," Granderson said. "All the firsts are out of the way. I know these guys, I know this city, I know how it is. All of those question marks are gone."

Granderson gave the Yankees the lead with a solo blast to right field off former Yankees lefty Phil Coke after Mark Teixeira had slugged a three-run homer off Detroit ace Justin Verlander in the third inning.

New York also got six effective innings from CC Sabathia and three innings of perfect relief to ice the Tigers on a frigid afternoon, the first March regular-season game played in the Bronx.

"It was great to see the way we did it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Tex had a big three-run homer, a big homer by Grandy, you get six innings from your starter and you go to your bullpen. It works out nice. It's how you draw it up."

Joba Chamberlain pitched a scoreless seventh inning to pick up the victory, while Rafael Soriano -- last year's American League saves leader -- made his Yankees debut in the eighth, striking out one.

"It's different, but I feel great because they give me the opportunity," Soriano said. "You get a little excited, because you're in a Yankees uniform. I made it."

Sporting his new high-sock look, Mariano Rivera performed just like old times in the ninth inning, notching his 560th career save to pull within 41 of Trevor Hoffman for the all-time Major League lead.

Rivera's outing was highlighted by the display shown in center field by Granderson, who flagged down a Brandon Inge drive after a long run for the second out of the ninth.

"Some great plays," Rivera said. "He feels good. He's done a tremendous job all spring and in the second half of last year. I wish him the best -- let him continue what he did today."

Arriving in New York late on Wednesday from Tampa, Fla. -- where he had put his mended strained right oblique through the paces of a final workout at the Yankees' Minor League complex -- Granderson said he was "definitely surprised" to make it back to the lineup so quickly.

Granderson's physical status was given an immediate test in the first inning, as he had to flop forward to make a diving catch on a Will Rhymes liner to center. He did not wince, erasing any fears the Yankees might have had.

"Curtis is a gamer," Verlander said. "He's going to give you everything he's got. He made a couple of great defensive plays. He's a talented baseball player. I enjoyed watching him play with us. I can't say I enjoyed watching him today, but I wish him the best when he's not playing us."

Then, leading off the seventh, Granderson turned on a fastball from Coke -- a chip in the three-way trade that brought Granderson to New York -- and slugged it into the right-field seats.

"Obviously, the home run is the best outcome when it's all said and done," Granderson said. "For me, it's just continuing to prove to myself that I can do it, because I've done it."

Derek Jeter lifted a sacrifice fly off Ryan Perry later in the inning, pushing New York forward after Sabathia and Verlander locked up in a pair of strong pitching performances.

Each starter allowed three runs in six innings, with the Yankees managing just three hits off Verlander, who walked four and struck out eight with 124 pitches -- 31 of which came in the first -- and still had enough to extinguish a New York rally in the sixth.

Attempting to shrug his tendency to begin seasons slowly, Teixeira accounted for the Yankees' production off Verlander by pumping a fastball into the second deck in right field, narrowly keeping it fair.

"It's great to start this way -- I'm not going to lie," Teixeira said. "You don't want to start the season slow as a team or personally. To get this out of the way with a win and hit a big home run -- to be part of it is great."

Alex Rodriguez doubled leading off the sixth -- recording his eighth consecutive hit on an Opening Day dating back to 2003 -- and Russell Martin led off the third with a hard single, his first as a Yankee, for the only other hits off Verlander.

Making his third Opening Day start for the Yankees, Sabathia held the Tigers to three runs (two earned) in a 106-pitch effort, scattering six hits while walking two and striking out seven.

"It feels great to get off on the right foot," Sabathia said. "The bullpen came in and pitched great, and that's a strength of our team."

The Tigers scored the first run of the game in the second inning, as Jhonny Peralta lifted a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Miguel Cabrera.

Brandon Inge added a run-scoring single in the fourth off Sabathia, and Cabrera connected for a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth, a run that was unearned due to a Robinson Cano error earlier in the frame.

"I made some pitches when I had to," Sabathia said. 
"I got in some tough spots but was able to try and minimize the damage."

Nick Swisher completed the Yankees' scoring by blooping an RBI single just beyond first base in the bottom of the eighth inning, allowing plenty of cushion for Rivera to send the fans home happy.

"Hopefully, we continue that," Rivera said. "The first one was a good one."

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