Five storylines to watch for on Opening Day

As Opening Day finally draws near, the Yankees are prepared to bounce back from last year’s ALCS seven-game series loss to the Astros. With blooming expectations that includes a new manager and the reigning NL MVP, the sky's the limit for the 2018 Yankees. Starting off in Toronto, a team whom the Yanks have quietly struggled with the past few seasons, it’ll certainly be a test to start the year and here are five storylines to watch for on Opening Day:

Photo Credit: Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday

How Boone sets up the lineup order
Ever since Stanton joined the Yankees, the biggest topic of debate has been the way the manager constructs the lineup. Will Judge-Stanton-Gary bat back-back-back? Is the idea of Judge batting leadoff a legitimate possibility? Where will Didi bat? It’ll be interesting to see just how manager Aaron Boone sets up the lineup. Surely, the Opening Day lineup isn’t what it will be everyday, but it'll be a good first indicator. Brett Gardner almost surely has the leadoff spot locked up with Judge following him in the two hole. After Stanton batting third, it’s anyone’s best guess as to what the order will be, especially with Greg Bird now out.

Bird’s replacement
Following the news that Bird will miss six-to-eight weeks with another foot injury, it’s still unknown as to who will replace him as the permanent starting first baseman. Right now, my best guess would be Neil Walker starts at first, Tyler Wade starts at second base, and new acquisition Brandon Drury gets the nod at third. The only other possibility for now that could happen is putting Walker at second and Tyler Austin at first. This would then leave the bench with just Austin Romine, who should only be used at first in emergency situations, as the only guy who can play the position. There’s still many possibilities as to who will replace Bird these first two months, as the Yanks could call up Mike Ford who they just re-acquired or even bring back veteran lefty Adam Lind. In the end, expect to see Walker at first on Opening Day and to see him and Austin split time until Bird hopefully returns.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg

Sevy building off of 2017
After a dominant 2017 in which he truly was the AL’s third-best starter, a major reason in why the Yanks made it to the playoffs, Severino had a bit of an underperforming postseason. After those rough few starts and the Yanks being busy with the move of Giancarlo Stanton amongst other small ones like acquiring Drury and signing Walker, Severino seems to have gotten a bit lost in the shuffle. With fans expecting bounce back seasons from Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka, I think Severino’s dominance has gotten forgotten about. His stretch in the last few months of 2017 was arguably one of the main reasons the Yankees made the playoffs. Facing off against the measly Blue Jays lineup shouldn’t be too tall of a task, but starting on Opening Day for the first time in his career as the “ace” may create some pressure. He will be facing the trio of Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak, and Kendrys Morales which isn’t too bad, but Sevy will face far better lineups as the season goes on. Their lineup also will likely feature three former Yankees, in Yangervis Solarte, catcher Russell Martin, and outfielder Curtis Granderson. Severino hasn’t gotten much recognition this offseason as a potential Cy Young candidate, but expect Sevy to come out with a vengeance on Opening Day.

Giancarlo’s first official game with the Yanks
Giancarlo obviously appeared in numerous games for the Yanks in spring training, but we finally get to see him in meaningful action. Once seen as only a dream for Yankee fans, seeing him and Judge bat back-to-back will be tremendous to watch. Stanton hit a ridiculous 59 homers last season and now he gets to hit in Yankee Stadium. In a hitter’s ballpark in Toronto, it’ll be fun to watch Stanton go to work in a Yankee uniform. Another thing to watch for though will be his defense as he somewhat struggled in his time in left field during spring training. We probably won’t get to see this on Opening Day, as he’ll likely DH, but possibly will in the series with the Blue Jays.

Photo Credit: Brett Davis/USA Today Sports

How Boone manages the bullpen
The main criticism of Joe Girardi in his time with the Yankees was the way he managed the bullpen. With Boone now at the helm, who doesn’t have any managerial experience, it’ll be intriguing to see how he handles the bullpen. Girardi was largely criticized for his short leash, “binder Joe” way he handled it and Boone certainly doesn’t have a small task at hand. In specific, the player to watch in that bullpen is Dellin Betances, who ended 2018 in a miserable way and looks to regain his dominant form. If the game is close, we will hopefully see the pecking order Boone has the bullpen in.

Article by: Spencer Schultz


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