COMMENTARY | To say the New York Yankees had a tough spring training health-wise is akin to claiming the economy is in a little rough patch.
Future Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter wasn't able to follow through on his claim he would be ready to go on opening day following surgery to repair the broken left ankle he sustained during the American League Championship Series last October. Instead, Jeter will open the season on the disabled list after suffering a setback due to inflammation in the repaired joint late in spring training.
General manager Brian Cashman told the New York Daily News on Thursday, March 28 that "it's hard to predict" when Jeter would be ready to return.
Center fielder Curtis Granderson broke his arm when he was hit by a pitch in the Yankees' second Grapefruit League game and is out until early May. First baseman Mark Teixeira tore the tendon sheath in his right wrist and said he won't be back until June. Pitcher Phil Hughes strained his back during drills in the first week of spring training and will open the season on the DL. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez underwent hip surgery in January and is out until the All-Star break at the earliest.
So when the Yankees open defense of their American League East title Monday, April 1 at home against the Boston Red Sox, the lineup won't be something Bombers fans will recognize right away.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
1. Brett Gardner, cf: The Yankees wanted to take a look at moving Gardner to center field this spring. Granderson's injury made more necessity than curiosity.
2. Ichiro Suzuki, rf: Which Ichiro will the Yankees get? The guy who hit .322 with some pop (.454 slugging percentage) after he was traded from the Seattle Mariners in late July? Or will it be the guy who had hit .261 with almost no pop (.353 slugging percentage) over the first four months or so of the season in the Pacific Northwest?
3. Robinson Cano, 2b: Cano had a huge World Baseball Classic, winning Most Valuable Player honors while leading the Dominican Republic to its first title in the event. The four-time All-Star is entering his contract year, so the pressure to put up big numbers will be ... significant.
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1b: Hey, whenever you can put a guy whose hitting numbers have dropped from .307/.411/.564 in 2010 to .235/.336/.409 last season in your cleanup hole, you have to do it, right? Wait ... what?
5. Ben Francisco, dh: The guy played for three teams and had 117 plate appearances with a .234/.282/.402 batting line in 2012. Francisco was released by the Cleveland Indians on March 11. He's going to open the season in the No. 5 slot for the New York Yankees. I am now going to stock up on bottled water and canned goods.
6. Vernon Wells, lf: The Vernon Wells who hit .303/.357/542 with 32 homers and 106 RBIs would be a great addition to this club. Unfortunately, that was in 2006. Instead, the Yankees are getting the Vernon Wells who hit .230/.279/.403 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs in 2012 ... and improved markedly from his 2011 batting line of .218/.248/.412.
7. Eduardo Nunez, ss: Look at the bright side, Yankee fans. You finally get your chance to see what Nunez can do with a regular spot in the lineup, for however long that may last before Jeter returns.
8. Jayson Nix, 3b: Rodriguez is a lifetime .300 hitter with 647 home runs and 1,950 RBIs. Nix is a lifetime .214 hitter with 34 home runs and 102 RBIs. So there may be an ever-so-slight drop in production at third base.
9. Chris Stewart, c: Think Russell Martin, only with better defensive skills and less power. That is as opposed to the alternative, Francisco Cervelli, who is like Russell Martin, only without the same defensive prowess and less power.
CC Sabathia, p: At least one thing isn't different for opening day as Sabathia will make his fifth consecutive season-opening start for New York.
Phil Watson is a freelance journalist and commentator based in upper Michigan who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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- Curtis Granderson