- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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It's been six months since the New York Yankees played their last real game. It's been six weeks since spring training began. Finally, Monday at 1:07 p.m. ET, the first Yankees pitch of the 2015 season.
A team with so many questions will start to provide some answers over the next 162 games spread over 182 days. So let's have an Opening Day primer about Monday and beyond.
1. Post-Derek Jeter: The start of the post-Core Four Era is officially upon us. Everything from Monday on will be part of a new undefined generation of Yankees baseball. The farewell tours of Jeter and Mariano Rivera are in the past, which caused even Joe Girardi to admit the focus will now be more on baseball. The Yankees will once again solely be judged on feats, not fetes, which after two years of missing the playoffs may not be a good thing.
2. No. 13 is back: Alex Rodriguez returns to Yankee Stadium. After a year away for his drug suspension, it will be curious to see how the fans react and how Rodriguez hits. Though he is expected to bat seventh, his bat could be important for what might be an impotent offense.
3. The reinvention of Masahiro Tanaka: In one year, Tanaka has gone from a curiosity to a sensation to a question mark. Now, he is going to try to reinvent himself with slightly reduced velocity. Tanaka, who is breaking CC Sabathia's string of six straight Opening Day starts, will throw the first pitch of the 2015 season, but will he be around to throw the last pitches? That may be the biggest question of this season and beyond.
4. Who will finish: Girardi is going to manage the ninth inning by ear. If Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller pitch like they did last season, then there is no problem. The two have only one career save each, so if the ninth inning is a different world for them -- as many in baseball believe -- then this will be interesting watch, especially after seeing the excellence of Rivera and David Robertson.
5. Popularity: The Yankees are now officially post-Core Four, and wherever you look, many in the media are prepared to unofficially hand the keys to this baseball city to the Mets. We'll see. What we can tell you is that according to TiqIQ.com, the Mets' tickets are hotter. The Yankees' average 2015 ticket price on the secondary market is $101.43, which is down 27 percent from last year ($139.41) at this time. Meanwhile, the Mets' average secondary ticket price is $104.47, which is up 19 percent from last year ($87.89).
6. Security issues: The Yankees are emphasizing fans arriving early on Opening Day because there are all kinds of new security measures at the ballpark. It's not just in New York but everywhere, as part of a new MLB initiative.
Here is part of a press release the Yankees sent out:
Metal detectors are located at all Yankee Stadium gates, and all visitors to the Stadium will be subject to screening. Once visitors have been screened and had their bags checked, they will have their tickets scanned.
Before proceeding through metal detectors, visitors will be asked to remove cell phones, cameras and any large metal objects from their pockets and place them in a small plastic container for inspection. Additionally, all bags and their interiors will be visually inspected by security personnel at a screening table alongside the metal detector. Please note that only MLB-compliant bags (soft-sided, measuring 16 inches by 16 inches by 8 inches or smaller) will be permitted inside the Stadium. Individuals will be able to watch their belongings throughout the screening process and can pick them up at the end of the table once they have proceeded through the metal detector. The removal of belts, shoes and jackets is not required.
7. Where's the beef: The Yankees' offense is basically the same as last season, so they will need better years from Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. They will also need health because the lineup is not deep; they can't afford to lose much production.
8. Cool Joe: Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Monday.
10. Sir Didi: Ah, yes, back to where we started from. While Sir Didi Gregorius and everyone around the Yankees say Gregorius is not replacing Jeter, he actually is. He will be better defensively, but will he hit well enough?
Now, we will finally get some real answers. Enjoy the season, everybody.
An Opening Day primer about Monday and beyond for the New York Yankees.