Sports

Yanks, Tanaka kick off season against Blue Jays

(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Yankees go into a season without Derek Jeter for the first time since 1995 on Monday, as they kick off the 2015 campaign against the Toronto Blue Jays.

They'll also head into a season having not reached the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since missing out on the playoffs every year from 1982-93.

Injuries derailed the Yanks in 2014, but they were still runners-up to the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East and were only four games out of a wild card spot.

Aside from Didi Gregorius stepping into the gigantic shoes left behind by Jeter, the Yankees are pretty much going to resemble the same team they were a year ago. Well, with the exception of a returning Alex Rodriguez, who will likely serve as the team's designated hitter after being suspended all of last season for his part in the Biogenesis scandal.

With him, aging stars like Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira, a lot is going to have to break right for the Yankees to compete.

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka anchors the rotation and will get his first Opening Day start after a tremendous rookie season that was derailed due to a torn ligament in his elbow. Tanaka missed a little over two months, but was able to avoid surgery, at least for now.

Tanaka showed no ill effects from the injury this spring, as he allowed five earned runs in 14 2/3 innings.

Toronto, meanwhile, again has some high hopes following the offseason acquisitions of catcher Russell Martin, outfielder Michael Saunders and third baseman Josh Donaldson.

However, they are already off to an inauspicious start as Saunders suffered a torn MCL and will start the year on the disabled list, while potential breakout ace Marcus Stroman will be lost for the year after tearing an ACL during a routine fielding drill.

Still, when everyone is healthy Toronto should have one of the better lineups in the league with the new additions, as well as Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion.

Staying healthy, however, is the key term.

With Stroman gone the Jays, like they probably would have done anyway, will have to lean heavily on veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle at the top of the rotation, but it's Drew Hutchison who gets the start on Monday.

Hutchison, the youngest Toronto pitcher in franchise history to start on Opening Day, has been the best Blue Jays pitcher this spring, winning all three of his starts, while pitching to a 1.80 ERA.