Powerful Yanks set to start 2019 against Orioles
The driving distance between Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards is approximately 200 miles.
The distance separating the expectations between the AL East teams seems significantly wider.
Heading into Thursday's season opener at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees are among the teams viewed as championship contenders and the Orioles are projected to be among the worst teams in baseball.
The Yankees are coming off two straight playoff appearances that ultimately fell short of their 28th World Series title. They reached Game 7 of the ALCS in 2017 against the Houston Astros in the final season under manager Joe Girardi and fell short by losing in Game 4 of the ALDS to the Boston Red Sox under Aaron Boone.
Boone's second team returns most of the same cast, though there are some injuries. When the Yankees take the field, outfielder Aaron Hicks (back), ace Luis Severino (shoulder), Dellin Betances (elbow) and Didi Gregorius (elbow) will be on the injured list.
"I'd like to think we are, but we were pretty good last year," Boone said of his team's depth. Maybe a little bit deeper and hopefully better equipped to handle some of these early-season injuries. Obviously, it's going to be important over the long haul that we get the guys back that we are missing right now because obviously, they are impact performers for us."
Giancarlo Stanton will be in left field after hitting 38 homers in his first season as a Yankee. Stanton will be joined in the outfield by Aaron Judge, who missed nearly two months last season with a fractured wrist.
Stanton and Judge were part of a team that hit a major-league-record 267 homers and the Yankees believe they can hit more, especially if Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres duplicate their rookie seasons. Andujar hit 27 homers and became a permanent fixture in the lineup in the second week of the season and Torres hit 24 homers after joining the team in late April.
The Orioles will be trying to pick up the pieces after setting a franchise record with 115 losses, breaking the previous mark of 111 losses by the 1939 St. Louis Browns. After the franchise's first 100-loss season since 1988, the Orioles made sweeping changes in management.
Brandon Hyde replaced Buck Showalter as the manager to oversee the massive rebuilding project and Mike Elias took over for Dan Duquette as the general manager. Under Showalter, the Orioles won the AL East in 2014 and reached postseason two other times in his eight seasons but spent virtually all of last season as the worst team in the majors.
Since the start of last season, the Orioles traded Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton and Darren O'Day and did not re-sign Adam Jones.
One veteran who remains is Chris Davis, who enters the fourth of a seven-year, $161 deal that he signed in Jan. 2016. Last season Davis batted .168 with 192 strikeouts and a slugging percentage of .296. His batting average and OPS were the lowest among all qualified hitters in the majors.
Among players acquired in last season's trades, the only one expected to be in the lineup Thursday is second baseman Jonathan Villar. Villar was obtained from Milwaukee for Schoop and hit .258 with eight homers, 24 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 54 games after the trade.
Masahiro Tanaka will make his fourth Opening Day start for the Yankees in place of Severino, who is expected to miss a month. Tanaka was 12-6 with a 3.75 ERA in 27 starts last season.
Tanaka went 2-1 with a 4.09 ERA in four starts against Baltimore last season. He is 4-3 with a 3.72 ERA in 12 career starts against the Orioles.
Alex Cobb was originally slated to start for the Orioles but he was put on the injured list Monday with a sore right groin. The club is hopeful Cobb can return by its home opener on April 4 against the Yankees.
"Just awful timing," Hyde told reporters. "This was something he was really looking forward to and I think he had a lot of people going and it's something you'll be able to save forever."
Andrew Cashner will start in Cobb's place and is coming off the worst season of his nine-year career as part of a pitching staff that posted a 5.18 ERA. Cashner signed a two-year deal with the Orioles in February 2018 and finished with a 4-15 record, a 5.29 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP. He also allowed 10.4 hits per nine innings and allowed a career-high 25 homers.
Cashner is 2-3 with a 3.18 ERA in seven career starts against the Yankees. He was 1-2 with a 4.26 ERA in four starts against New York last season.
Baltimore also selected the contract of Jesus Sucre from Triple-A Norfolk and placed fellow catcher Austin Wynns (oblique) on the 10-day injured list. Outfielder Mark Trumbo, who is still recovering from knee surgery last September, was placed on the 60-day injured list.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 25, 2019