After a torturous Spring Training last year, the Yankees opened up the 2013 season with one of their worst opening day lineups in recent history. Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez all hit the disabled list early, and this was after losing Nick Swisher and Russell Martin to free agency. There was a ton of doom and gloom from Yankee fans and the media, but by the end of the season, the Yankees' record really wasn't all that terrible. Yet, only Alex Rodriguez returned for long enough to make an impact on the season, while the Yankees' management proved that they would make the necessary moves to provide a competitive team. Looking back on the 2013, it's hard to be too pessimistic about their 85-77 record, despite losing out on the playoffs. They played far better than we expected, but it's easy to forget just how bad this team looked in April. Here's the opening day lineup from 2013 compared to the projected opening day lineup for 2014.
|CF||Brett Gardner||CF||Jacoby Ellsbury|
|SS||Eduardo Nunez||SS||Derek Jeter|
|2B||Robinson Cano||RF||Carlos Beltran|
|1B||Kevin Youkilis||C||Brian McCann|
|LF||Vernon Wells||1B||Mark Teixeira|
|DH||Ben Francisco||DH||Alfonso Soriano|
|RF||Ichiro Suzuki||LF||Brett Gardner|
|3B||Jayson Nix||2B||Brian Roberts|
|C||Francisco Cervelli||3B||Kelly Johnson|
The Yankees have a new position player at ever position. Brett Gardner is the only player to remain in the lineup from last season, while Ichiro Suzuki and Francisco Cervelli are the only other two members to remain on the 25-man roster. The Yankees have made obvious upgrades at every position that's not second base, and despite that, they're starting the season with a payroll that's nearly $30 million less than at this point in 2013. Yes, most of their highly paid stars were on the DL in 2013, but the Yankees' have turned around a lineup in 2014 that's much more cost efficient due to health and shedding the contracts of Granderson, Robinson Cano, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Rodriguez (temporarily).
As you can see, there's really no comparing the 2013 lineup, which showcased Ben Francisco as the designated hitter, to the lineup we'll see in tomorrow's game. This isn't to say the lineup is perfect, as Teixeira, Jeter, and Brian Roberts are three injury concerns, and Kelly Johnson hasn't proven his third base defense yet. These problems seem miniscule after the rollercoaster 2013 season, and hopefully we become spoiled by the Yankees' fortunate health that we've witnessed so far. Maybe it's a little early to start counting our health blessings, but it's easy to stay optimistic after the bizarre injury bug that ran through the team last year.