NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Sunday, April 5, 2015, 5:25 PM
Updated: Monday, April 6, 2015, 1:47 AM
There will be no Derek Jeter farewell tour this season to deflect attention if the Yankees are mediocre again.
When the Yankees last left the Bronx, they were basking in the glow of Derek Jeter’s final memorable moment at Yankee Stadium, a walk-off hit that served as the feel-good highlight of an otherwise ordinary 2014 season.
When they return Monday, it’s back to business.
There will be no retirement tours this season to divert anybody’s attention if the Yankees find themselves on the outside of the postseason picture for a third straight season. It all starts Monday when they host the Blue Jays on Opening Day, with Alex Rodriguez back in uniform after his year-long PED suspension.
“You look forward to it every year,” Joe Girardi said. “You look forward to trying to get after what we really want. The competition we’re going to experience in the next 180 days, it’s what we love to do.”
While the end of last season centered on the Captain’s final days in pinstripes, this season’s opener is as much about the return of some familiar faces as it is the arrival of some new ones.
Rodriguez hasn’t played at the Stadium in more than 18 months, but after a successful spring that saw him emerge as one of the most productive hitters in the lineup, the controversial slugger will be back in the lineup after serving the longest PED-related suspension in the game’s history.
“I’m excited about this team; I think this team has a good workman-like mentality and DNA,” Rodriguez said. “Kind of a quiet, under-the-radar team. It has a good feel to it. I like that a lot of people are not expecting much from us; that’s kind of a different place for us to be. For me, personally, I’m very excited about the regular season. What’s better
than Opening Day at Yankee Stadium?”
Masahiro Tanaka, who created a buzz in the Bronx during the first half of 2014 before his elbow injury limited him to only two late-September appearances after the All-Star break, will be on the hill.
Tanaka, who also made his big-league debut against Toronto last April, said he doesn’t anticipate the same nerves as he takes the ball for his first major-league Opening Day assignment.
“Looking back at last year, I think there was a lot of attention for me on how I would pitch being my first year here,” Tanaka said through his
translator. “There were certain pressures, but this year I’m not feeling that. For now, I think I’m a little bit more relaxed.”
For three of the Yankees’ regulars, Monday marks their first home opener in the Bronx. Chase Headley and Stephen Drew got a taste of the Stadium’s atmosphere during the
final two months last season, but Didi Gregorius has yet to slip on his pinstripes in a meaningful game.
It’s a time of transition in Yankeeland, just as it was back in 1996 when Jeter, Tino Martinez and Girardi played in their first home opener at the old Stadium. And while the ballpark might feel a little odd without Jeter, Girardi believes the newcomers — along with the prospects trying to push their way to the Bronx — give the Yankees a bright future as he prepares to open his eighth season as manager.
“It gives other guys the chance to be icons; we call it the face of the Yankees,” Girardi said. “I still go back to looking at the younger players that aren’t here, that are on their way. They’ve got a chance to be something special, like that other group was. And there’s some good players; I think we have seen it all spring long. That, I get very excited about.”