Pressure? What pressure?

Maybe at age 21, Derek Jeter is simply too young to understand he should have been nervous about being the Opening Day shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Even though he was the obvious choice to replace the injured Tony Fernandez, Jeter joked he didn't believe he was going to be the starter until lineups were announced Tuesday.

"I wasn't nervous. I was real excited and anxious to start the season," Jeter said after helping the Yankees to a 7-1 win over the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field.

Jeter channeled his energy into a positive, even though he realized a young player can often make mistakes when he's too anxious.

"That's very true. When you're anxious, you'll do too much," said Jeter, who played 15 games last year for New York. "I just tried to relax. Everybody kept telling me that. You can be anxious, but you have to tone it down."

Fernandez is on the 60-day disabled list after suffering a fractured right elbow while diving for a ball during a March 24 Grapefruit League game against Houston. Jeter, voted the best minor-league prospect by most national publications in 1994 and the tops in the Yankee chain the last two years, filled the void with no problem.

First came a solo home run in the fifth, as Jeter took a Dennis Martinez fastball deep into the left-field bleachers to give New York a 2-0 advantage.

It was his first in the majors and the first by a Yankee rookie on Opening Day since Jerry Kenney hit one against Washington on April 7, 1969.

"It's always hard to get the first hit of a season out of the way," Jeter said. "I wasn't looking for a home run, but it was a great feeling."

The good feelings continued for Jeter in the seventh. With New York nursing a 2-0 lead and Cleveland's Sandy Alomar on second, Jeter showed the acumen of a player far beyond his years. He robbed Omar Vizquel of an RBI single by racing into short left field with his back to the plate to snare the looper.

"I didn't appreciate it because he took a hit away from me," Vizquel said with a good-natured smile. "I can certainly tell it was a good play. He looked good out there."
The Indians and Yankees play again tonight at 7 and Thursday at 1. Like all Cleveland home games for the remainder of the season, there are no tickets available.

Jack McDowell, who moved from the Yankees to the Tribe this year as a free agent, starts tonight's game against New York's Andy Pettitte. The Yankees send Jimmy Key to the mound Thursday against Cleveland's Orel Hershiser.
The Indians have designated catcher Jesse Levis and outfielder Nigel Wilson for assignment. They are hopeful both will clear waivers and join the Buffalo Bisons for Thursday's season opener in Nashville.

Wilson has already been bypassed by most teams once this spring, as the Indians -- the second-last team on the waiver-claim list based on last year's records -- took him from Cincinnati last month. He hit .317 with 18 homers last year for Indianapolis.

Levis, however, is a good bet to be picked up because most teams are on the lookout for catchers. Levis, 27, hit .333 in 12 games last year for the Tribe, and hit .311 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 66 games for Buffalo.

Levis made it known during spring training he wouldn't mind testing the waiver wire in hopes of getting claimed.

"If someone doesn't claim me, I'll be in Buffalo," Levis said over the weekend. "The whole thing is timing. It just depends on somebody needing a catcher. If they do, I have to hope that they've noticed me."
The loss was Cleveland's first in three Jacobs Field openers . . . Starting pitcher Dennis Martinez fell to 2-14 lifetime against the Yankees . . . The teams have met on opening day three times in the 90s and New York has won all three . . . The Tribe has not hit an Opening Day home run since Pat Tabler connected against Baltimore in 1987.