Pineda exudes excitement for Sawx start

NEW YORK -- Michael Pineda doesn't even try to hide his excitement.

Why should he? The guy missed two full seasons with shoulder trouble. Now he's back pitching, he's coming off a strong first game, and he's about to make his Yankee Stadium debut in the season's first game against the Red Sox.

Why shouldn't he enjoy it?

"Yeah, it's a big deal," said Pineda, who opens the 2014 edition of the rivalry Thursday night. "I'm so happy."

Don't expect Jacoby Ellsbury to say anything so direct, but this weekend's series matters just a small bit to him too. He's not the first player to switch sides in Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, but he is the most recent -- and he got $153 million to switch.

"It's my first time playing them, and I'm looking forward to it," Ellsbury said. "I'm going to try to treat it like any other game, but it'll be memorable."

Ellsbury's presence in pinstripes should give this weekend's series a little buzz boost, as does the Red Sox's status as defending World Series champs and the Yankees' winter of spending in an attempt to catch up.

As Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Wednesday, Ellsbury's first trip back to Fenway Park (on April 22) figures to be more emotional. Ellsbury played his first seven seasons with the Red Sox, and while he helped them win two World Series, the Boston fans aren't likely to be thrilled with his move to the Bronx.

"He'll have a whole lot more people that are happy that he's here [this weekend] than when we go there," Girardi said.

Ellsbury had a .778 OPS in rivalry games when he played for the Red Sox, not much different from his overall numbers.

"He was a guy that gave us trouble, and when he was on base, he gave you even more trouble," Girardi said. "I used to look across the field and think, 'This is a guy that could change the game in a lot of ways.'"

The Yankees won just six of 19 meetings with the Red Sox last year, which fairly represented the way the two teams' seasons went. The Yankees missed the playoffs for just the second time since the 1994 strike, which led to the winter makeover.

Ellsbury was a big part of it, but Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann will also be playing the Red Sox for the first time as Yankees.

So will Pineda, technically a Yankee since a January 2012 trade with the Mariners but now finally healthy and able to pitch.

Pineda pitched well in his debut Saturday in Toronto, allowing one run in six innings in a game the Yankees lost 4-0. That game, plus Pineda's strong spring, gave the Yankees some confidence that Pineda can be the sometimes-dominating pitcher the Yankees thought they were trading for.

"Just continue what he's been doing," Girardi said. "Don't try to do too much. Don't get caught up in the moment."

Pineda may or may not try to do too much, but he will get caught up in the moment.

For a guy who missed two years and is thrilled just to be pitching, there's nothing wrong with that.