Yankees vs. Rays: 3 things to watch as 2012 starts Yankees vs. Rays: 3 things to watch as 2012 starts Yankees vs. Rays: 3 things to watch as 2012 starts
 

Yankees vs. Rays: 3 things to watch as 2012 starts

The start of a new baseball season makes me feel like a kid on Christmas again.

CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am both excited and nervous just thinking of what the 2012 season could bring.

Finally, it is the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays turn to open the season tomorrow at Tropicana Field.

Two division rivals, that are both primed to make the post season, and with 162-games left to be played anything can happen.

The AL East is as much talented as it is torturous, and it looks to be a battle-royale once again in baseball’s toughest division.

So, what should Yankee fans be watching against the Rays this weekend?

Here are three situations I will be keeping tabs on….

1) The starting pitching match-ups are fierce.

CC Sabathia vs. James Shields – Friday

Hiroki Kuroda vs. David Price – Saturday

Phil Hughes vs. Jeremy Hellickson – Sunday

Out of all three, I will be closely watching Sunday’s match-up of Hughes vs. Hellickson as it intrigues me because I haven’t seen a really productive Hughes since before the 2010 All-Star Break.

Also, Hellickson, who won the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year, and Hughes have very similar  stats against each others active hitters, so I want to see if Hughes can hold his own without the Yankees having to score 6+ runs for him to get the win.

all stats compliments of Baseball-Reference.com.

I know it is Hughes’ first start but he used up a lot of his chances last season. And remember, with Pettitte returning sometime in mid-May, give or take, someone is getting the boot from the starting rotation and it is not going to be Sabathia or Kuroda.

Looks like the real pitching competition is about to starts.

Hughes has to be very convincing over the next few weeks to make anyone feel confident that keeping him in the rotation is the best idea. Pending that Ivan Nova does not continue to implode.

This should be interesting.

2) The walking wounded.

No team is devoid of injuries during Spring Training, and the Yankees had their fair share this year. What concern me are the players who had minor bumps and bruises over the last month, as what that could translate into serious injury.

For instance, David Robertson’s ankle sprain from falling down the stairs; Curtis Granderson getting an MRI for a sore elbow; the Captain feeling tightness in his other calf; Russell Martin and Nick Swisher’s groins; and Boone Logan’s back.

I think you got my gist here. Just hope none of these transpire into something more, as a few of these injuries sound eerily familiar.

This might be a personal thing for me, as every April I seem to ‘hope for the best, but expect the worst’ but once the season gets rolling that though fades out.

3) Every game counts in 2012 more than ever, no excuses.

These two teams will be fighting it out all season long, and if you remember last year making the post season came down to the last game of the year for a number of teams.

Also, as good as the two new added Wild Card teams are for baseball as a sport, it is scary to think about as a fan. Imagining that a team’s entire and great season could be over in one game. Especially if you are the Wild Card team with the better record because just a year ago you would be playing in the Divisional Series.

Any ‘winner takes all’ situation is terribly harsh, and it certainly makes the 5-game short series everyone used to complain about seem like a Godsend now.

Bottom line is this series is just as important to win as any other, and that goes for both teams.

**2012 OPENING DAY BONUS:

Here are some recent game stats between the Yankees and Rays. Please know that I am well aware that these are not the same teams from 2011, but it is always interesting to see if anything correlates. Enjoy!

Tampa Bay is 20-8 in their last 28 home games, 4-1 in their last five home games vs. a left-handed starter, and 6-2 in-game one of a series.

New York is 1-5 in their last six road games; 4-1 in their last five game one of a series; and 15-7 in Sabathia’s last 22 road starts.

The Rays won the last four meetings vs. the Yankees.