By Dan Duggan
NEW YORK -- The Yankees will have a much different lineup than usual when they take the field against the Red Sox this afternoon for Opening Day.
Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson all are sidelined with injuries. That’s a combined 32 All-Star Game appearances on the shelf, which takes a bit of the sizzle out of today’s matchup and plenty of pop out of the Yankees’ lineup.
“We’re probably going to score runs in different ways,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “With the way our lineup is constituted I don’t expect us to hit 240 home runs during the course of the season. But I still think you have the ability to score runs in different ways, and I expect that.”
The injuries have put the Yankees in an unfamiliar underdog role in the eyes of some. Don’t include Girardi in that group.
“We expect to win,” Girardi said. “I know there’s some different faces in that clubhouse, but the expectation is still to win. That is the bottom line. It starts today and we know it’s a long season. There’s going to be some ups and some downs, and you just have to be able to handle the adversity that you’re going to go through. You’re going to go through a lot of different things through the course of the next 180 days, but handle it and get through it, and we expect to be there.”
Rodriguez is on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from left hip surgery that could sideline him for the season. Jeter (recovery from left ankle surgery), Granderson (fractured right forearm) and Teixeira (right arm torn ECU sheath) begin the season on the 15-day DL.
There is a temptation to simply attempt to hold down the fort until the stars return to the lineup, but Girardi is resisting that notion.
“Our belief is to go out and win every day,” Girardi said. “It’s an opportunity for a lot of guys to get some more playing time and to show us what they can do. But I don’t think you ever think like that. I think that’s a negative thought. Let’s go out and win every series.”
- There will certainly be one familiar face in the Yankees lineup, although it may take time to adjust to seeing Kevin Youkilis in pinstripes. Youkilis will play first base and bat cleanup in his Yankees debut.
Youkilis signed with the Yankees in December after finishing last season with the White Sox. The 33-year-old was traded last June to Chicago from the Red Sox, where he spent the first seven-plus years of his career.
Youkilis will fill a number of roles for the Yankees, shuttling back and forth across the diamond from first base to third in addition to serving as the DH occasionally.
“I think he just wants to play,” Girardi said. “As we get going he’ll know exactly what he’s going to do. When I choose to DH him a day or give him a day off, I’ll keep him well-informed.”
- One reason for Girardi’s optimism today is that he’ll hand the ball to CC Sabathia. The 2007 AL Cy Yong winner will make his fifth straight Opening Day start for the Yankees. He is 0-1 with a 7.48 ERA in the opener with the Yankees.
“I’ve always believed in CC and what he’s done here,” Girardi said. “The amount of wins that he’s given us, the big wins that he’s given us, the way he’s been able to pitch and log innings for us, I have a ton of belief in CC.”