Yanks, Tanaka kick off season against Blue Jays

(SportsNetwork.com) – The New York Yankees go into a season without Derek
Jeter for the first time since 1995 on Monday, as they kick off the 2015
campaign against the Toronto Blue Jays.

They’ll also head into a season having not reached the playoffs in consecutive
years for the first time since missing out on the playoffs every year from

Injuries derailed the Yanks in 2014, but they were still runners-up to the
Baltimore Orioles in the American League East and were only four games out of
a wild card spot.

Aside from Didi Gregorius stepping into the gigantic shoes left behind by
Jeter, the Yankees are pretty much going to resemble the same team they were a
year ago. Well, with the exception of a returning Alex Rodriguez, who will
likely serve as the team’s designated hitter after being suspended all of last
season for his part in the Biogenesis scandal.

With him, aging stars like Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira, a lot is going to
have to break right for the Yankees to compete.

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka anchors the rotation and will get his first
Opening Day start after a tremendous rookie season that was derailed due to a
torn ligament in his elbow. Tanaka missed a little over two months, but was
able to avoid surgery, at least for now.

Tanaka showed no ill effects from the injury this spring, as he allowed five
earned runs in 14 2/3 innings.

Toronto, meanwhile, again has some high hopes following the offseason
acquisitions of catcher Russell Martin, outfielder Michael Saunders and third
baseman Josh Donaldson.

However, they are already off to an inauspicious start as Saunders suffered a
torn MCL and will start the year on the disabled list, while potential
breakout ace Marcus Stroman will be lost for the year after tearing an ACL
during a routine fielding drill.

Still, when everyone is healthy Toronto should have one of the better lineups
in the league with the new additions, as well as Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes and
Edwin Encarnacion.

Staying healthy, however, is the key term.

With Stroman gone the Jays, like they probably would have done anyway, will
have to lean heavily on veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle at the top of
the rotation, but it’s Drew Hutchison who gets the start on Monday.

Hutchison, the youngest Toronto pitcher in franchise history to start on
Opening Day, has been the best Blue Jays pitcher this spring, winning all
three of his starts, while pitching to a 1.80 ERA.