It’ll be deja vu all over again for the Yankees on Opening Day.
On Monday at Yankee Stadium, Masahiro Tanaka will face Houston Astros lefthander Dallas Keuchel. That was the matchup the last time the Yankees played a game that counted, and it didn’t go well for the home team.
The vagaries of the Major League Baseball schedule — which was announced last summer, well before Houston beat the Yankees, 3-0, on Oct. 6 in the American League wild-card game — have the teams and pitchers matching up again.
“I find it’s amazing how they do that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “And the schedule’s out before everything starts. You see it usually in August. The Mets are playing in Kansas City. I just find it truly amazing.”
One big difference: A loss won’t end the Yankees’ season this time.
“Opening Day’s always very special, especially at the Stadium in front of our fans,” Alex Rodriguez said. “But we play so many games. Opening Day’s one. Then you move on.”
Another difference: With the additions of Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks and the return to health of Mark Teixeira, the Yankees hope they are better equipped to deal with Keuchel. Last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner threw six shutout innings against them on Oct. 6 after holding them scoreless in 16 regular-season innings. In the 22 innings, he allowed 12 hits and two walks and struck out 28.
“I think he was a handful for us,” Rodriguez said. “There’s no question about it. He dominated us, multiple times. He did pretty well against everybody else as well. Did he win the Cy Young? So he had a phenomenal year. I think the approach with all great pitchers is get a good pitch to hit and don’t miss it.”
Said Girardi: “You have to put good at-bats on him. Hopefully, with some of the additions that we made to our club, we’ll have better success. I think that we were lefthanded-dominant last year. I think that we have more options this year. I think we have a better balance to our lineup versus lefties.”
Castro and Hicks will be in the lineup, as will Teixeira, who missed the wild-card game because of a broken bone in his right leg. Hicks will replace either Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury, and Girardi said he will make that call Monday. Ellsbury was benched against Keuchel in the wild-card game.
Another game-time decision will be whether Chase Headley is healthy enough to start. Headley was down over the weekend with a stomach bug. If he can’t go, rookie Ronald Torreyes will be the Yankees’ Opening Day third baseman.
Torreyes, 23, had his first eight big-league plate appearances with the Dodgers last season (two hits in six at-bats). The Yankees acquired him in the offseason, lost him on waivers to the Angels, then reclaimed him a week later.
Torreyes beat out Rob Refsnyder for a backup infield spot late in spring training once it became clear that in his first exposure to third base, Refsnyder could not stop taking ground balls off his face. That happened on consecutive days before Refsnyder was mercifully sent to minor-league camp. Now Refsnyder, the fan favorite who started at second in the wild-card game, will try to master third at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Rodriguez is not an option to play third or any other position that requires a glove. Coming off his spectacular comeback season, the 40-year-old will be strictly a designated hitter.
Rod riguez hit a home run in his first at-bat of spring training but didn’t have a single extra-base hit after that.
He is unconcerned.
“I just wanted to stay healthy,” he said. “I think everybody’s excited for Monday.”