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News » Sabathia, Yankees seek positive start vs Orioles 2009-04-06

Sabathia, Yankees seek positive start vs Orioles 2009-04-06

Sabathia, Yankees seek positive start vs Orioles 2009-04-06
BALTIMORE (AP) - The New York Yankees are about to find out if CC Sabathia's $161 million contract was a good investment.

Sabathia formally begins his tenure with the retooled Yankees on Monday at Camden Yards, weather permitting, where the Baltimore Orioles will be forced to share opening day festivities with their AL East rivals, thousands of loud New York fans and one of the best pitchers in either league.

Sabathia has a lifetime record of 117-73 with 1,393 strikeouts and went 11-2 with Milwaukee over the final two months of the 2008 season before signing a seven-year contract with New York. What better person to represent the new-look Yankees on opening day than the 6-foot-7, 290-pound Sabathia?

"Any time you have a guy like that on the mound, it can be a little intimidating," Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said. "But that's what makes it fun. We're going to really try to battle him."

After having their streak of 13 straight playoff appearances ended last year, the Yankees added Sabathia, pitcher A.J. Burnett, outfielder Nick Swisher and first baseman Mark Teixeira, a Maryland native who spurned a seven-year, $140 million offer from the Orioles and overtures from the Washington Nationals to take an eight-year, $180 million deal with New York.

"The Nationals and the Orioles, they made a good run at me," Teixeira said over the weekend. "In the end, the Yankees had everything that I wanted."

Including Sabathia, who will also help open the new Yankee Stadium by pitching the home opener on April 16. He can't wait to walk to the mound against the Orioles, who this year hope to end a run of 11 consecutive losing seasons.

"It's going to be good. I'm excited about getting out there and getting the season started," Sabathia said.

While the Yankees spent big bucks over the winter, Baltimore signed shortstop Cesar Izturis and catcher Gregg Zaun. Therein lies one of the biggest differences between these two teams, but the Orioles are delighted to get the opportunity to show what they've got on opening day - even if the much of the focus will be on Sabathia and New York.

"We'll get a lot of national attention, a lot of exposure," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "But I think opening day should, in itself, be very special - this one, maybe a little bit more so because of who we're playing."

Armed with baseball's steepest payroll, the Yankees realize the importance of beginning the season on a roll. New York went 14-15 last April and never really recovered in its first season under manager Joe Girardi.

"Hopefully this year we can get out to a good start. The last few years we dug ourselves a little hole," said shortstop Derek Jeter, who will bat leadoff Monday in New York's revised batting order.

Sabathia also knows the importance of beginning the season in a positive fashion. With Cleveland last season, he yielded five runs over 5 1-3 innings in the opener against the Chicago White Sox and owned a 1-5 record on May 3.

"I just got off to a bad start. Just couldn't get pitches where they needed to be," he said. "This spring I tried to come in and work on getting my pitches where they need to be. Hopefully I get the team off to a good start and get myself off to a good start."

Baltimore intends to spoil that plan. The switch-hitting Zaun, who worked hard this spring improving his swing from the right side, hopes the results are apparent against the hard-throwing Sabathia.

"I want to see how I feel against one of the top lefties in the game," Zaun said. "When you're talking about CC, you're looking at mid-90s with a nasty slider and a great changeup. It's also going to give me a really good picture of where it's at with my right-handed swing."

Baltimore's opening day starter for the second straight season is Jeremy Guthrie, who can distance himself from a poor performance in spring training with a solid outing against the Yankees. Counting his time with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, the right-hander had an unsightly 12.32 ERA.

Guthrie lost to Tampa Bay in last year's opener. He insists facing the mighty Yankees does not present any more difficult a challenge than the Rays, who went on to win the AL pennant.

"There's not a team in the American League that doesn't hit the ball really well," Guthrie said. "It will be a nice crowd, a real rambunctious crowd, but you approach it like any other team. I don't know that it feels that much different than facing Tampa Bay last year."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 6, 2009

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