3/31/2014 7:31 P.M. ET
Heart of Yankees almost landed deep in heart of Texas
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Derek Jeter never gives much thought to what his career might have looked like in a different uniform, but as he prepares for this final lap through the big leagues, there was a chance that it could have all happened in Houston instead of New York.
The Astros owned the first selection in the 1992 First-Year Player Draft and had scouted Jeter as a high school shortstop in Kalamazoo, Mich., but their decision-makers opted to select college infielder Phil Nevin instead.
Four other clubs also passed on Jeter, who fell to the Yankees with the sixth overall selection. None of those picks -- Paul Shuey (Indians), B.J. Wallace (Expos), Jeffrey Hammonds (Orioles) and Chad Mottola (Reds) -- went on to enjoy the levels of success that Jeter would.
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"I was fortunate to be drafted by the team that I wanted to be, that I was a fan of growing up," Jeter said on Monday at Minute Maid Park, where the Yankees held a workout in advance of Tuesday's season opener. "I've never really allowed myself to think of what could have been different.
"I understand the Draft is a crapshoot. I wasn't even aware that the Yankees drafted sixth, to be quite honest with you. I think things worked out the way they should have worked out."
As the story goes, Astros scout and Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser lobbied hard for Houston to select Jeter with the first pick, having spent two years tracking his development in Michigan. When his advice was ignored, Newhouser quit, ending a career of more than 50 years in professional baseball.
The Astros plan to honor Jeter's career on Wednesday with a pregame ceremony and special gift. The ceremony will include a video highlighting some of Jeter's greatest on-field moments, and former teammates Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens will be in attendance.
"This is the last of the Core Four that came up, that really meant a lot to this organization," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's been very enjoyable to be around. It's been enjoyable to watch the way he goes about his business, plays the game, what he does off the field, the great teammate that he is."
Jeter, who said that he expects all the usual Opening Day butterflies and nerves when he takes the field on Tuesday evening, said that he has always had a sense of gratitude for having those memorable moments come in a Yankees uniform.
"For me, it was always a dream coming to play for the Yankees," Jeter said. "To have that opportunity to do it my whole career, I've been fortunate. I have not even thought about what might have happened [elsewhere]."
In opening lineup, 2013 vs. '14, Gardner lone holdover
HOUSTON -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi has revealed his probable Opening Day lineup, looking forward to sending out a batting order that has been completely overhauled from last season.
Girardi said that he plans to send this lineup out against the Astros on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET: Jacoby Ellsbury CF; Derek Jeter SS; Carlos Beltran RF; Brian McCann C; Mark Teixeira 1B; Alfonso Soriano DH; Brett Gardner LF; Brian Roberts 2B; Kelly Johnson 3B.
"I think that we feel that we have a very deep lineup," Girardi said. "I feel that our bench is going to be productive, as well. We're going to score runs, and that's important -- especially in our division."
The only remaining player from the 2013 Opening Day lineup is Gardner, and he is playing a different position than last year, when he manned center field for the season opener.
Though the Yankees talked about the dynamic punch of having Ellsbury and Gardner bat back-to-back, probably with Gardner in the No. 9 spot, Girardi said that he sees several advantages to hitting Gardner seventh.
"You can do some things with the guys that are behind him," Girardi said. "You can let him run. You have a patient hitter in Brian Roberts, and [with] Kelly Johnson you can do some things.
"I just kind of like where he is. You get through the first couple of guys and then it gives you speed against a little bit quicker, and your speed is not necessarily back-to-back."
Memories of 2009 season rekindled
HOUSTON -- The last time the Yankees had to keep the lights off at Yankee Stadium in the fall, they responded by adding more than $400 million in payroll and watched a revamped roster of stars bring home the 2009 World Series championship.
They went back to that playbook after posting an 85-win, third-place finish last year, and as the Yankees prepare to send out a lineup that is highlighted by Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, there is a similar urgency to getting back on top.
"I think it has a lot of the same feel," manager Joe Girardi said. "I think there's a lot of high expectation with the names that we've added. We addressed a lot of situations because of all the things that we went [through] last year, and it's a lot of the same feelings."
"I know what we went through, and how tough of a year it was last year in terms of not being able to make the playoffs," left-hander CC Sabathia said. "It was disappointing. You work extra hard to put yourself in a position to win games and put yourself back where you want to be, and that starts off with trying to win the division."
Ellsbury, McCann and Beltran account for $283 million in new payroll commitments, and the Yankees also gave a seven-year, $155 million contract to right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson will also make their Yankees debuts on Tuesday.
"I don't know if it has anything to do with last year, but as a group right here, right now, we expect to do good things and get into the playoffs," McCann said.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that he was encouraged by the club's spring.
"I feel as good as you can in terms of 'mission accomplished,' getting through Spring Training with what you wanted to get through," Cashman said. "You saw what you wanted to see from most people."
• Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he does not have any concerns about David Robertson's velocity. Robertson will begin his tenure as the club's closer on Tuesday, and a New York Post report suggested that the right-hander's velocity has been 88 to 90 mph this spring, down from his usual 92-93 mph.
"That's not what we had on our gun," Girardi said. "We have him up to 93 and a lot of 91s and 92, which is pretty normal for David Robertson."
• The Yankees have until Tuesday to make a 40-man roster move to accommodate infielder Yangervis Solarte, according to general manager Brian Cashman. They will place infielder Brendan Ryan (pinched nerve) on the 15-day disabled list to make room on the 25-man roster for Solarte.
• Andy Pettitte was in the Yankees' clubhouse on Monday and threw batting practice to the final group of hitters. Pettitte lives in nearby Deer Park, Texas, and will be part of an on-field ceremony to honor Derek Jeter on Wednesday.
• Infielder Dean Anna wore No. 93 during Spring Training, but has switched to No. 45. Anna, a product of Frankfort, Ill., said that he picked the number to honor Michael Jordan. No. 23, of course, has been retired by the Yankees for Don Mattingly.