A host of new faces as Red Sox-Yankees open season
When Robinson Cano runs out to his position at second base Monday at Yankee Stadium and looks to his right, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez will be missing. A glance to the left, and no Mark Teixeira.
Cano can check the trainer's room if he needs to find a familiar face.
"You don't want to see anybody get hurt, but it's part of life. Hopefully, they get well soon," Cano said. "Hopefully, we can just stay in the race until whenever they get back, and when we get them back and they help us to make it all the way to the playoffs."
Fans may need to consult their programs when the defending AL East champions take the field against the revamped Boston Red Sox for the 111th opening day in franchise history Monday. Jeter (ankle) will not be at shortstop in an opener for the first time since 2001. Teixeira (wrist) and Curtis Granderson (forearm) are out at least until May and Rodriguez (hip) won't be back until the All-Star break if at all this season.
Throw in the departures of Russell Martin and Nick Swisher to free agency as the Yankees try to trim their payroll for 2014, and the team will have a look that is more brittle than bombers.
In fact, when Yankees manager Joe Girardi takes the lineup card out to home plate for the team's first game that counts since New York was swept by Detroit in the AL championship series, only three names from opening day 2012 will be on it: Cano, Brett Gardner and pitcher CC Sabathia.
In place of the injured and departed is a collection of retreads and castoffs.
Vernon Wells, a late-spring training acquisition from the Los Angeles Angels, will start in left field. Lyle Overbay gets the nod at first base, six days after being cut by the Red Sox. Former Boston star Kevin Youkilis was the Yankees lone big free-agent signing, brought in as a $12 million placeholder for A-Rod. Ben Francisco could be the designated hitter against lefty Jon Lester.
"It's still the Yankees, it's still going to be a good lineup," Lester said Sunday. "They're going to put quality at-bats together. They're missing a few of their big guys but anybody that fills in for them it's like what I said, they're going to put professional at-bats together and still - it's not going to be a walk in the park."
The Red Sox also took a different approach this offseason. After going 69-93 and finishing last in the AL East for the first time since 1992, the Red Sox replaced the high-priced players they traded last summer - Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford - with a more modest crew that includes Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster and Joel Hanrahan.
The Bobby Valentine experiment lasted only one season. John Farrell is back from a two-season stint as the Blue Jays manager. Boston's former pitching coach is certain the Red Sox have put last season behind them.
"I think our guys starting at the final day of last year were looking forward to rewriting the story that unfolded last year," Farrell said. "By virtue of the changes to our roster. There's a number of new players who weren't here a year ago that they don't carry those sentiments."
One of those changes is the rapid rise of Jackie Bradley Jr., the dynamic 2011 first-round pick (40th overall) who made the Red Sox roster after a spectacular spring training. Having never played above Double-A, Bradley hit .419 with a .507 on-base percentage. He's getting a chance because David Ortiz was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 22, with a right Achilles tendon injury.
Bradley will start in left field Monday and Gomes will be the designated hitter.
"He's fun to watch,"Victorino said ofrBradley, who turns 23 on April 19.
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is looking forward to seeing Youkilis, new look and all.
"It's going to be a little different, especially he'll be clean-shaved and everything," Pedroia said.
A lot will be different when the two clubs who have dominated their division for more than a decade take the field as underdogs. But Lester thinks the matchup remains the best rivalry in baseball.
"I think anytime you have Red Sox-Yankees, it's going to be intense and the rivalry is still going to be there," he said. "Adding opening day to it is going to be fun."