The New York Yankees owned the offseason, and on Tuesday, they begin their quest in substantiating their slew of pricey moves.
It started with Brian McCann, a seven-time All Star who signed a five-year, $85 million contract in November. Then the Yanks simply continued to up the ante more and more with Carlos Beltran (three years, $45 million), Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million) and Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka (seven years, $155 million) as the winter wore on.
After a flurry of spending that might make Warren Buffett blush, the Yankees look intent on putting a disappointing 2013 season far in the rear-view mirror.
Are the Yanks still a little old? They could definitely be younger. Do they have injury concerns? You bet.
But with a newly stacked lineup and a rotation that now adds Michael Pineda and Tanaka to a trio of C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova, there are loads of potential here.
Tuesday presents an opportunity for the first real look at the new Bronx Bombers, as they take on the young Houston Astros, who are hoping to improve after a 111-loss season in 2013.
Date: Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Time: 7:10 p.m. ET
Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
Watch: YES, CSN, MLB Network
Live Stream: MLB.TV
Yankees Starter: C.C. Sabathia
For the sixth consecutive season, Sabathia will take the mound on opening night for the Yankees, a yearly tradition that he may like to start skipping.
In his previous five opening-day starts, the veteran lefty is 0-2 with an ugly 7.43 ERA and 1.95 WHIP. He has given up 36 hits, 16 walks and 22 earned runs in 26.2 innings while striking out 23.
Last year's particular effort cascaded into a disaster of a season, as Sabathia finished with a 4.78 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 32 starts—arguably the worst campaign of his storied career. Reasons for the lack of success were a drop in velocity as well as a propensity to get away from his change-up.
Andy Pettitte, who has been working with Sabathia, told MLB.com's Bryan Hoch he is confident the 33-year-old can fix those problems:
We talked a lot about this last year. CC's got everything it takes to be successful -- mentally, pitch-stuff-wise. When your velocity's not quite there, you've got to rely a little bit more on movement and command, and be able to change speeds and do different pitching. And I think he can do all those things.
He's too much of a competitor not to be successful, and he's got a great club around him. He's going to be just fine. The biggest thing for me is I'm trying to get him not to worry about it. Whatever the velocity is, it is. You can't worry about that. You've got to get guys out with what you've got.
Sabathia, who arrived at Spring Training with noticeably added muscle, has worked on rediscovering his changeup, and it resulted in a 1.29 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in five dominant spring starts.
Despite a rough 2013, all signs point towards optimism as Sabathia anchors what should be an extremely solid rotation.
Astros Starter: Scott Feldman
For his efforts, he was rewarded with a three-year deal worth $30 million, making him the Astros' highest-paid player. And that's all you really need to know about the Astros.
Still, while Feldman isn't your prototypical opening-day starter (although he did kick off the 2010 season atop the Texas Rangers' rotation), manager Bo Porter knows he is important in other ways, via MLB.com's Brian McTaggart:
He's been there, he's done it. He's a veteran guy. He's been highly successful in this league, in this division. He's won 17 games before. His veteran leadership -- and it's not just what it is he would say to a lot of the guys -- it's the way he goes about his business, the professionalism. It's benefiting a lot of the young guys that are here because they're getting an opportunity to watch a constant professional each and every day.
Feldman has a tall task in front of him, but if he can get through the Yankees' lineup twice and avoid too much damage, it will undoubtedly be a job well done.
New York struggled last season and still had the Astros' number, winning five of six head-to-head matchups.
The Astros have a lot of intriguing young talent headlined by Jose Altuve, and they went out and added Dexter Fowler in the offseason. But they are clearly in the middle of a rebuilding project, while the Yankees are built to win right now.
Don't be surprised if Houston gets a couple of runs off Sabathia, who tends to limp out of the gate, but keeping pace with the Yanks' potent lineup is a different story.
Prediction: Yankees 8, Astros 4