Yankees Pregame Notebook: 18th annual Subway Series brings new experiences

05/12/2014 5:30 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Derek Jeter is the only current Yankee to play in the inaugural Subway Series in 1997.(AP)
Derek Jeter has been part of the Subway Series since the inception of interleague play, but tonight, he begins his one as the New York Yankees host the New York Mets for the first of two in the Bronx and four overall between the Big Apple's squads.

The Captain and his now-manager, Joe Girardi, are the only pinstripers left from that first Subway Series in 1997, and although the rivalry still exists just because of geography, Jeter admitted it's not as intense as it was nearly two decades ago.

"(In 1997) it was all new; you felt as though you had to win the series, like it was the World Series. It was all anyone was talking about," Jeter said of the interleague debut. "We lost the first game, and it was almost the end of the world. Now, it's toned down a little bit, but it's still fun for us as players. You want to win regardless of who you're playing, but the atmosphere in the city was pretty special."

Of course, that doesn't mean either team won't be amped up.

"Obviously it's very important that we beat them now, too," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Sunday afternoon, looking ahead at what will be an important week for his team.

These days, the teams are just two games apart in terms of record - 19-17 for the Yanks, 17-19 for the Mets -- but they couldn't be much farther apart in terms of placement. The Yankees enter the four-game, two-borough set just a game and a half behind Baltimore for first place in the AL East, while the "Amazins" are currently share the NL East basement with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Mets, however, are riding a four-game winning streak against the Yankees - their longest ever against their cross-town rivals -- by virtue of sweeping the Subway Series last season, and with them coming off a comeback victory on Sunday, Girardi knows they'll be riding high.

"These are important games early in the year, two here and two at their park," he said. "These are big games, and they're always big games, so you approach them that way."

There are four ex-Yankees on the Mets' roster, and at least three of them will see action for sure tonight; Bartolo Colon will start for the Mets, with Bobby Abreu as the DH and Curtis Granderson in right field, and Girardi thinks that the latter will definitely elicit the typical positive response that long-time Yankees usually receive when they return to the Bronx.

"I think the (fans' reaction) will be favorable. Curtis had some really good years for us and did some important things for us," he said. "It's really unfortunate what he went through last year with his hand injuries, but I think Curtis was extremely important to the community here."

Granderson, of course, felt the same way.

"We'll find out in a few hours, but I enjoyed my four years here, and I got a chance to do some great things," Granderson said. "Everybody was obviously very supportive with the Foundation, and I'm looking forward to seeing them out there."

And if he gets roll call?

"I'll definitely acknowledge them if I do," he laughed.

As for the Yankees' own roster, Alfredo Aceves will be available in the bullpen, despite the fact that as of now, he is the likeliest candidate to start in place of CC Sabathia in the Subway Series finale in Queens. Adam Warren and Dellin Betances are likely unavailable tonight, so if Hiroki Kuroda can't give the Yankees extreme distance, Aceves may be called into action.

"Ace will be in the bullpen today because of the use of it; still could be him Thursday, but depending on whether or not we need him earlier, it could be someone else," Girardi said. "Maybe we'll get some distance out of our starters the next three days and we won't have to use Ace, but with what Warren did yesterday and Betances the last couple days, we can't abuse these guys, so Ace has to go to the bullpen."

Time will tell what ends up happening, but Girardi did know one thing for sure: even in its 18th year, the Subway Series is still special.

"I think the newness of it has worn off, but I think the excitement level is still very high. When I walk into Citi Field there's obviously a great buzz, and it's the same when the Mets come over here, and there's always a buzz in the city. In most things in life, the newness is where you see the highest level of excitement, but I still think there's excitement in this."

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