The Yankees open their 109th season Thursday with perhaps more questions than usual, considering that they had to reconstruct the back end of their rotation and are hoping a kid -- Ivan Nova -- and an old-timer -- Freddy Garcia -- are the starting answers.
At least they will get to use ace CC Sabathia, who is making his third consecutive Opening Day start since joining the Yanks, to begin the season. Sabathia, the only real given in a rotation that includes the confounding A.J. Burnett and the young but talented Phil Hughes, will try to set the season off the right way for a team that is thought of as an underdog in the American League East division.
Crazy, right? The juggernaut, $200 million Yanks are mostly thought of as the second-best team in the division behind the improved Red Sox. Even their ace says so, and Sabathia noted Wednesday before the Yanks' final preseason workout that the idea might be motivating.
"We're not the favorite," Sabathia said, cracking a grin. "It kind of feels good to have everybody not picking us and us go out and kind of sneak up on people. We can just sneak up on some people, as crazy as that sounds with the talent we have here. Nobody seems to believe in us but us, so we'll see."
Of course, these Yankees are hardly the 1969 Mets or even the 2008 Rays, teams with high hopes that were perhaps loftier than their pedigrees. New York still has Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Robinson Cano, and multiple other players returning from a team that reached the sixth game of the AL Championship Series last year. Sabathia, who faces Detroit ace Justin Verlander in the opener, was 21-7 in 2010 with a 3.18 ERA.
"I don't think it bothers anybody," Sabathia said of the public's lowered expectations. "I actually find it funny, considering what we've done."
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