When Mariano Rivera jogs out to the first base line and humbly tips his cap to the adoring crowd today during festivities at Yankee Stadium he will do so without tipping anyone off to his retirement plans.
"I always look at Opening Day as if it was my first one," Rivera said. "This one will be just like the others."
If this is going to be Rivera's last year in baseball -- he hinted as much during spring training -- his ever-steady performance on the field is no indication. The record-setting closer helped make sure the New York Yankees are heading into their 110th home opener in the Bronx in a better state of mind.
After New York was swept in Tampa Bay, Rivera finished each of the Yankees' three straight wins in Baltimore -- including saves 604 and 605 -- with the last two games going extra innings.
Relieved to be 3-3, the Yankees figure to get an emotional lift from newly retired teammate Jorge Posada, who will throw out the ceremonial first pitch, before Hiroki Kuroda makes his first start in pinstripes against Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels.
Home is where the Yankees hope it all comes together.
"It seems like we've been gone forever," manager Joe Girardi said. "I think we're all anxious to get back and play at home before our home crowd."
Fans should be more forgiving with the Yankees coming off their first back-to-back extra-inning victories on the road in 11 years, according to STATS LLC.
The season got off to a horrible start only miles from their spring training complex, when New York was outplayed in every area by the potent Rays. Kuroda gave up six runs in his first start and Rivera blew a save.
"It kind of didn't really feel like spring training ended until we got on a plane and went somewhere," Nick Swisher said. "As soon as we got on that plane, I think something clicked for us. It was like, now it's time to go. Maybe that was a nice little wake-up call."
In Boston, meanwhile, Fenway Park will be all decked out for its 101st season. Fans will flood the streets and fill the seats at the neighborhood stadium, despite their team's early-season slide.
"I think we have the greatest fans in the world," new manager Bobby Valentine said. "We'll find out."
The Red Sox were 1-5 on their season-opening road trip to Detroit and Toronto. Today, with colorful bunting adorning the park, they begin a tough nine-game homestand -- four against Tampa Bay, two against Texas and three against the Yankees.
Last year's start was even worse, an 0-6 flop overshadowed by a 7-20 September collapse that left them out of the playoffs -- and the Rays in them -- with a loss on the final day.
The Red Sox beat the New York Highlanders (later to become the Yankees) in the first regular-season game in Fenway Park on April 20, 1912.
The Yankees will be the opponent there on the 100th anniversary of that game to open a three-game series at the park, which in March was added to the National Register of Historic Places.