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Starting for first time, Heathcott impressive

Yankees center fielder hits double in first MLB at-bat, finishes 2-for-3 and scores run

NEW YORK -- Slade Heathcott spotted his name in a Major League lineup for the first time Friday, drawing the start in center field as the Yankees opened a three-game series with the Rangers, and quickly took advantage of the opportunity to make a good opening impression.

In his first plate appearance, Heathcott doubled off Texas righty Colby Lewis, then reached base in his next two times at bat to finish the evening 2-for-3 with a run scored in the Yankees' 10-9 loss.

"This game is the same game no matter where you are between the lines," Heathcott said. "The fans, the crowd, the stadium, everything is on the outside. I wanted the focus to be on staying in between the lines, not worrying who was around.

"After the first [at-bat], it obviously helped me calm down and get the nerves in check to realize that this is just another game that I'm playing."

Video: TEX@NYY: Catcher's interference called on Chirinos

The Yankees' first-round selection (29th overall) in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, the 24-year-old Heathcott was batting .285 (43-for-151) with 16 runs, four doubles, two triples, a homer and 17 RBIs in 37 games for the RailRiders, appearing at all three outfield positions.

Heathcott, who hails from Texarkana, Texas, had several friends and family members on hand. They erupted into cheers when Heathcott turned his third-inning single into a double, diving headfirst into second base.

"I can probably paint a picture of what they looked like," Heathcott said. "It's a big day for all of us. Without all those guys and all my family and the people who have helped me throughout my past and high school, professional ball, I wouldn't be here."

As Heathcott said earlier this week, his road to the big leagues has been anything but uneventful. His progress was stalled by two surgeries on his right knee, two procedures on his left shoulder as well as a stint in rehab for alcohol abuse.

Despite being removed from the 40-man roster this past winter, Heathcott impressed the Yanks this spring, hitting .333 (11-for-33) as a non-roster invitee, and manager Joe Girardi said that he sensed increased maturity in Heathcott's game.

"I thought the young man played well," Girardi said. "You look at his first base hit, it's aggressive to get to second, he gets there. I thought he did a good job tonight."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.
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