American League Preview from The Sports Network|
Friday, April 6th
(All times Eastern)
New York Yankees (0-0) at Tampa Bay Rays (0-0), 3:10 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: New York - CC Sabathia (0-0, 0.00)
Tampa Bay - James Shields (0-0, 0.00)
(Sports Network) - Two teams with playoff aspirations kick off their 2012
campaigns this afternoon when the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays meet in
the first of three games at Tropicana Field.
It was a record-setting season last year for the Yankees, but one that
ultimately ended in disappointment.
Along the way to their 97 wins and an 11th American League East crown in the
last 14 years, shortstop Derek Jeter further cemented his legacy with hit No.
3000, while Mariano Rivera became the game's all-time saves leader.
Robinson Cano also continued his pursuit to be considered along with the
game's elite, while Curtis Granderson did his best to join him with a season
that saw him slug a career-high 41 home runs.
But, when it was all said and done, that great lineup that carried them for
most of the season failed them when it mattered most, as the Yankees lost in
five games of the ALDS to the Detroit Tigers, dropping the decisive contest in
The Yankees didn't need to make wholesale changes at season's end and were
unusually quiet this winter. They did, however, deal top prospect Jesus
Montero to Seattle for All-Star right-hander Michael Pineda, while also luring
Japanese right-hander Hiroki Kuroda over from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Actually the biggest addition to this year's Yankees team may have arrived
late in spring training when left-hander Andy Pettitte announced he would be
coming out of retirement to once again join the club.
CC Sabathia, who agreed to a five-year extension to stay in pinstripes this
offseason, put forth another tremendous year, winning at least 19 games and
finishing in the top-5 in AL Cy Young voting for the third straight season. He
will get the call today.
Sabathia, who fell a win short of becoming the first Yankees starter to post
back-to-back 20-win seasons since Tommy John back in 1979-80, still ended the
year 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA.
"It's an honor to be able to start the season for the franchise and the
organization," said Sabathia, who inked a five-year $122 extension this
winter. "I'll be ready to go."
Opposing him will be another All-Star in right-hander James Shields, who
bounced back last year with a terrific season, as he went 16-12 with a 2.82
ERA over a career-high 249 1/3 innings. His 11 complete games were also by far
the most in the AL.
"Being the Opening Day starter means a lot," Shields said. "For me, I put in a
lot of hard work in the offseason, and it's just a testament to how hard I
worked last year to get to where I am this year. And that's pretty much all it
is. Obviously, it's nice to become the Opening Day starter. Especially on a
staff like ours, I mean, we have a pretty good staff. It's definitely
Shields, who will be making his fourth Opening Day start, heads up perhaps the
best rotation in all of baseball, as manager Joe Maddon can on any given day
send out a starter who's finished in the top three of AL Cy Young Award voting
(Shields, third, 2011; and David Price, second, 2010), won an AL Rookie of the
Year Award (Jeremy Hellickson, 2011), struck out double-digits in a postseason
start (Matt Moore, 11, 2011) or simply won at least 11 games in three straight
seasons with an overall winning percentage of 62.3 (Jeff Niemann).
But lost in the shadow of the elite arms is a star-studded, albeit
inconsistent offense that includes another former AL Rookie of the Year in
third baseman Evan Longoria and a returning fan favorite in first baseman
Carlos Pena, who spent one year with the Chicago Cubs after hitting 46, 31, 39
and 28 home runs in the previous four seasons with Tampa Bay.
The two are penciled in as the go-to run-producers in a lineup that also
includes intermittently dynamic holdovers like Desmond Jennings (.259, 10 HR,
20 SB in 2011), Ben Zobrist (20 HR, 91 RBI). B.J. Upton (23 HR, 81 RBI, 36 SB)
and Matt Joyce (.277, 19 HR, 75 RBI). Upton, though, is currently sidelined
with a back injury.
04/06 10:39:04 ET