Thursday, March 28, 2013

Here Come the Yankees!

The New York Yankees will open the 2013 season on Monday, April 1, with a game against the Boston Red Sox.  The team that takes the field for New York that day will not resemble recent Yankee teams.  In fact, it might not resemble any major league team.  Due to the Yanks' seemingly endless rash of injuries this spring, the Yankee lineup has been reduced to a "Who's That?" collection of replacements, also-rans and the never-was.

While it's still a few days away, here is what the 2013 Yankees could look like on Opening Day:

  1. Brett Gardner, CF
  2. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Kevin Youklis, 3B
  5. Travis Hafner, DH
  6. Vernon Wells, LF
  7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
  8. Eduardo Nunez, SS
  9. Francisco Cervelli, C
Yipes.  Better get used to it, too.  Though Derek Jeter will probably be the first injured player to return, that might not be for a while.  After that, it's anybody's guess.  Curtis Granderson could return from his broken arm by mid-May, or possibly later.  Meanwhile, Mark Teixeira could be back in the lineup by May or June, or maybe not at all.  Then, of course, there's A-Rod.  Estimates for when he might return range from the All-Star break to 2014.  (Or maybe he'll just retire!  Though that seems the least likely scenario... for now, at least.)

But before we sound the alarm and flat-out write off the Yankees, there is still some hope.  While the Yanks will be hard-pressed to produce any runs until perhaps the All-Star break, their pitching will keep them in plenty of games.  Though the injury bug has befallen Phil Hughes, too, the Yankees' pitching is still solid.  The current rotation shakes out like this:
  1. C.C. Sabathia
  2. Hiroki Kuroda
  3. Andy Pettitte
  4. Ivan Nova
  5. David Phelps
Phelps looked sharp in his final spring start,  making fans at least comfortable that he can hold down his spot in the rotation for a while.  Once Hughes returns, Joe Girardi will decide between keeping Phelps and Nova in that 5th spot.  (Since Nova has always been a starter and Phelps has experience in the bullpen, my guess is that short of an implosion by Nova, it will be Phelps who gets bumped.)

And let's not forget: waiting in the wings, somewhere down the line, is the enigmatic Michael Pineda.  While Pineda has really only begun on his journey back to the mound, most believe he could be back in the majors this season, perhaps by June. 

Perhaps the team's greatest strength will be the bullpen.  With Mariano Rivera back closing games, the rest of the 'pen is that much better.  David Robertson remains one of the games' best set-up men, while Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain make a dynamic righty-lefty tandem. 

As Yankees' fans, we've become quite spoiled.  A season that doesn't end in the World Series is a disappointment.  With both lowered expectations and an improved A.L. East as competition, any success by this edition of the Yankees might be a welcomed surprise.