Yankees look very different from last year's home opener

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Yangervis Solarte hits an RBI double in the

Yangervis Solarte hits an RBI double in the fourth inning during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 6, 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Tom Szczerbowski

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David Lennon David Lennon has been a staff writer for

David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.

TORONTO - When we last saw Yankee Stadium, Robinson Cano still wore pinstripes, Mariano Rivera's farewell tour didn't have a sequel and Masahiro Tanaka was pitching for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?

So when the Yankees return home for today's opening ceremonies, there's going to be a different vibe in the Bronx. Those needing their nostalgia fix will be happy with the Core Four reunion, when Derek Jeter joins Andy, Jorge and Mo to handle the first-pitch duties.

But after that, get ready for the Yangervis Solarte Era. And leave the No. 25 jerseys in the closet. Mark Teixeira didn't stay healthy long enough to make it to the Bronx opener. Instead, you get Kelly Johnson, who spent all of spring training preparing to be Alex Rodriguez's replacement, only to move to the other corner.

"It's going to take everybody, and we know that,'' Joe Girardi said. "Even though we have some younger guys, we still have some age on our team, and it's going to take a combination of a lot of players to get to where we need to get.''

We learned last season that $200 million buys plenty of talent -- but no assurances that any of it will stay on the field. Even after spending roughly $500 million during the offseason for the most expensive reboot in franchise history, the 2014 Yankees are coming back to New York after a 3-3 trip that began with a pair of losses to the Astros.

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"It's better than going home 0-6,'' said CC Sabathia, who settled some nerves Sunday -- including his own -- after a very shaky opener in Houston. "We'll take that.''

If Melky Cabrera had gotten that line drive over Ichiro Suzuki's head in the ninth inning Sunday instead of watching it become the final out of the Yankees' 6-4 win over the Blue Jays, you'd probably be wondering what the heck is going on with this team. Maybe you still are.

Well, that makes two of us.

It's only six games. Are they a good team? Sure. Can they be great? Possibly. But making predictions at this point feels like a futile exercise. Look at everything that happened in the first week. Solarte is batting .471 (8-for-17) and leads the team with five RBIs. Johnson had the big knock Sunday, a two-out, two-run double in the first inning.

The Yankees also went five games without hitting a home run before Brett Gardner finally left the yard with his fourth-inning shot. That's right, Gardner. On a team that is paying a boatload of cash to legit rippers Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and Brian McCann.

"I don't think anybody bet on that,'' Gardner said.

With Girardi trying to navigate through this stretch of 13 games in as many days, he's already been tinkering with the lineup. Gardner began the season as the No. 7 hitter but jumped back up to No. 2 when Jeter needed a blow. Then Gardner moved into the leadoff spot for two games, including Sunday, when Girardi slid Jacoby Ellsbury to third with Beltran sitting.

Aside from last year's outlier squad, that really hasn't been the Yankee Way, which dates to Joe Torre's days of penciling in the same lineup during the dynasty. The Yankees gave Ellsbury $153 million to be their regular leadoff man, but as Girardi said, this group has to be versatile.

Whatever your opinion of that Ellsbury deal and how bad it might look during those sixth and seventh seasons, we can say he's a heck of a player right now. With another infield single Sunday, he's getting on base at a .417 clip and already has swiped three bases. Watching him chase down fly balls in centerfield is going to be something out there on the wide expanse of Yankee Stadium lawn.

As for the early hiccups, Soriano still looks lost at the plate despite snapping his 0-for-17 streak Sunday with a single. And Teixeira back in two weeks from a hamstring strain? We'll believe that when we see it.

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But for now, enjoy .500, the Core Four and Jeter's last Opening Day in the Bronx. The Solarte Era can wait.

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