ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.
The Yankees will begin their season Friday afternoon in the unattractive bubble that is Tropicana Field. As usual, the Yankees have high expectations, and with an extra wild card, it seems extremely likely that there will be a pinstriped presence in the postseason.
So let's skip the preliminaries and get to it: Do the Yankees have enough to win it all?
Yes. But so do a bunch of other clubs in the American League. The Yankees have the highest payroll again (of course) at just under $200 million, but spending the most hasn't earned them most-favored status, not even from the architect of their roster.
General manager Brian Cashman the other day called the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers "clearly the favorite in the league." He also mentioned Detroit, Los Angeles, the Red Sox and the Yankees' opponent Friday, those plucky Tampa Bay Rays.
Any of those teams could represent the AL in the World Series. The Yankees, with the additions of Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda and Andy Pettitte -- even if the latter two aren't ready to help the club yet -- are better today than the 97-win AL East champion team of a year ago.
"I like this club," manager Joe Girardi said Thursday. "I like the depth that we have and the health of our players right now. I feel really good about some of the additions that we've made, the improvement of our young kids if we do have to go down to get someone to fill in for a while. I do feel good about this team."
Derek Jeter, told of Girardi's statement, said: "I like my club. Usually, you like every team when you leave spring training, you know what I'm saying? But I don't compare one year to the next. I liked our team last year."
When you've got five rings like Jeter, a season that ends with a first-round ouster like 2011 doesn't end up in the front pages of the personal scrapbook. And Jeter's not going to predict a trip to the World Series just because the Yankees look better going into the opener. A lot can happen in seven months.
For example . . . a few minutes earlier, Pineda was playing catch on the field. It was the first step toward (the Yankees hope) a recovery from the shoulder tendinitis that landed him on the 15-day disabled list.
Pineda probably was headed to Triple-A before he admitted his shoulder was hurting. Not what the Yankees expected when they surrendered top hitting prospect Jesus Montero to acquire the 23-year-old from Seattle.
Pineda showed up in camp toting too many pounds and not enough mph on his fastball. An All-Star in his rookie season, Pineda still could be the difference-maker the Yankees need. So far he has looked more like an overwhelmed kid who is learning that the pressure in New York is about a zillion times more than in Seattle.
Pettitte, meanwhile, is knocking off the rust on the other side of Tampa Bay, hoping for a May debut. The Yankees may end up with a surplus of starting pitching, but nothing in baseball is more likely to dry up fast than a surplus of starting pitching.
Girardi called Opening Day "the start of a pretty long journey during the course of the season trying to get to where you want to be."
The journey begins Friday. And then really begins in October. That's life when you're the Yankees.