Yankees ready for home opener No. 110
“Obviously it was an interesting road trip; we could’ve been 5-1 or 1-5, but you end up 3-3, and it always feels good coming home after a good series,” manager Joe Girardi said early Friday morning.
Derek Jeter agreed, and then admitted that even after 17 years, he still gets butterflies before each season’s first game at the Stadium.
“It’s a fun time, and you get butterflies whether it’s the first game of season, or for us this year the seventh,” Jeter said. “I don’t think you really sleep as well as you’d like the night before. You feel like you’re in Little League again; this is as exciting as it can get on opening day…it’s fun for us as players.”
When Jeter and the Yankees open their fourth campaign at the new Stadium on Friday afternoon, they’ll do it behind a man who has never toed a rubber in the Bronx. Off-season signee Hiroki Kuroda is set to make his Yankee Stadium debut, and he’ll do so against a fearsome Angels lineup that contains another former National League superstar making his Bronx debut as an American Leaguer: Albert Pujols.
Kuroda struggled in his Yankees debut last Saturday in Tampa, but Girardi doesn’t believe that the right-hander needs to tweak his game plan too much against Pujols and the Angels lineup.
“It’s not always such a bad thing that a club jumps on you early in the count – the important thing is the quality of the pitches, the first and second pitch,” Girardi said in reference to the Rays’ approach of attacking Kuroda early in counts last week. “If you make those quality pitches and they jump on you early in the count, you’re going to have some easy innings. I don’t think he has to change pitch selection so much as the quality of the pitch.”
As for Pujols himself, Jeter had some thoughts on “The Machine’s” Bronx debut as an American Leaguer.
“Our pitching staff is doing backflips in the clubhouse!” Jeter joked, before adding that “it’s exciting for baseball fans to see him. We haven’t played him much, but I know Albert from all-star games and such; he’s going to bring a lot of excitement. He’s been playing well for a very long time.”
Before Kuroda throws his first pitch to schedule Angels leadoff hitter Erick Aybar, a former Yankees star will be on hand to throw the ceremonial first pitch: Jorge Posada. It will be the recently-retired Bomber’s first trip back to the Bronx since his retirement announcement in January, and Jeter for one will be very happy to share the field with Posada once more.
“Once we get into the swing of the season, it’s bizarre not to have (Posada and Andy Pettitte) out there,” The Captain admitted Friday morning. “I played with those guys for parts of 20 years, and when you don’t see them every single day, it’s different. They’re like brothers to me.”
The Yankees have one departure from their “usual” lineup today. Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano have swapped spots, so A-Rod will be batting third and the second baseman will hit cleanup against Angels righty Ervin Santana.