New York Yankees Hottest Starts to the Season That Will Continue

Stephen Skinner@https://twitter.com/oswegos1Contributor IIApril 11, 2013

New York Yankees Hottest Starts to the Season That Will Continue

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    The team is too old, too hurt and too overmatched, yet in spite of those opinions of so-called experts the Yankees have been able to ride blazing starts of some key players to a 4-4 record (one game out of first place in the East).

    Some of those "hot" players will cool off, but others have the potential to maintain the high level they began the season with.

    This article takes a look at those Yankees whose stellar play could be the key to a successful run at defending their AL East crown.

Kevin Youkilis

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    He was one of the most hated of rivals and is slowly erasing the years of ire Yankees fans have bottled up for him.

    Kevin Youkilis has begun 2013 hitting .367 with a 1.141 OPS while leading the team in hits (11).  As the No. 3 batter in the Yankees lineup it was crucial for the former Boston Red Sox player to be productive, and he has not let his new team down.

    Prior to a tumultuous and dismal final year and a half with the Red Sox, Youkilis had strung together three straight seasons with a .307 average or better, and for his career he is a .283 hitter.

    In the field he has yet to make an error at third base this season and holds a career .966 fielding percentage (by contrast, Alex Rodriguez has a .964 fielding percentage). 

    He has proven to be a solid piece to the Yankees 2013 puzzle and his history shows that fans can continue to expect more of the same.

Andy Pettitte

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    He is 41 years old and should be enjoying a comfortable retirement somewhere in the heart of Texas. Instead, Andy Pettitte is anchoring a Yankees pitching staff that has started the season ranked 22nd in Major League Baseball based on ERA.

    That ranking in no way reflects Pettitte's contribution. In his first two starts the ageless wonder has pitched 15 innings and yielded just two runs (1.20 ERA). His WHIP is a stellar 1.13 and he has walked only four batters while striking out seven. 

    Where CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda have been inconsistent at best in their opening starts (4.87 combined ERA), Pettitte has been the calming, steady presence the staff has needed to open the 2013 campaign.

    There is no evidence that Pettitte's start is a fluke as he appears to have picked up where he left off in 2012. In spite of missing a portion of the season with a broken leg suffered at the wrong end of a line drive, the big Texan posted a 2.87 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 12 starts.

    Yankees fans can expect the southpaw to continue to produce every fifth day and provide the stability needed while the team's top two starters get up to speed.

Robinson Cano

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    Coming off an MVP performance in the World Baseball Classic that saw him hit .469 with six RBI in eight games, the expectations for Robinson Cano were set high entering the 2013 season.

    Unfortunately, through the first two series of the MLB campaign, the second baseman was limited to just three hits in his first 23 AB (.130 average).

    Then the "real" Robinson Cano finally made his appearance. 

    In the first two games against the Cleveland Indians Cano is 7-for-10 with three HR, seven RBI and six runs scored. He has raised his average to .303 and put Yankees fans' fears to rest.

    Over the past three seasons the 30-year-old has averaged 30 HR and 107 RBI for the Bombers. 

    It looks as though the team can expect more of the same in 2013.

Francisco Cervelli

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    In 2009, his first season with significant playing time at the big-league level, Francisco Cervelli hit .298 and threw out 43 percent of potential base stealers. His competitive spirit and heart won over Yankees fans and it looked as though he'd "stick" with the club.

    In 2010 and 2011 his bat remained solid (hitting for a .269 average), but behind the plate his performance plummeted as he could only manage to gun down 14 percent of the runners attempting to steal. 

    That resulted in a demotion to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre in 2012, where the catcher worked on his defense and showed up at spring training this season ready to show the Yankees he was prepared to win the starting role as the backstop.

    His play impressed manager Joe Girardi as he threw out runners at a 50 percent rate. That was enough to make him the primary catcher for the team in 2013.

    To date, he has proved that his preseason performance was not an aberration.  He is currently third on the team in average (.353), second in RBI (six), first in on-base percentage (.476) and first in hitting with runners in scoring position (.750 average).  

    Behind the plate only one runner has attempted to steal, and Cervelli threw him out.

    It looks as though the 27-year-old has put his struggles behind him and rekindled the talent that brought him to the Bronx.

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