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Sunday, February 24, 2013
First Pitch: Here comes the new OF

By Wallace Matthews

TAMPA, Fla. -- There's no lineup yet for today's spring home opener against the Blue Jays -- it probably won't be posted until the clubhouse opens at 8 a.m. -- but it's a pretty good bet that we will get our first look at the re-aligned outfield of Brett Gardner in center and Curtis Granderson in left.

Joe Girardi continues to say that the shift is something he is "toying with," but the Yankees generally don't try just anything unless they are seriously considering going with it. So if the outfield lines up the way I expect it to today, I am assuming that will be the opening day outfield, unless it turns out to be a complete disaster.

And there's no reason why it should, since Gardner is a terrific outfielder who has played plenty of center field, and Granderson, while prone to making bad reads, is still speedy enough to outrun most of his mistakes. And with Gardner able to cover as much ground as he does, there should be fewer of those. Also, left field will be far less demanding on Granderson's somewhat average arm.

Let's face it: This is probably going to be a different Yankees offense this season -- less powerful for sure -- and saving runs on defense is going to be extremely important. Center field and catcher are two positions at which the Yankees can conceivably save a few.

We saw Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine, two primarily defensive catchers, behind the plate yesterday, and we'll probably see Chris Stewart, the epitome of the good-glove, no-bat backstop, catching Adam Warren, et. al, today.

And my guess is we'll also see Gardner back in center field today. If all goes well -- for most of the games this season.

UP NOW: My story on how Cervelli's family intervention may have helped save his Yankees career. Also, blog posts on Derek Jeter's return to baserunning and Zoilo Almonte's impressive first game.

ON DECK: The Yankees have an early clubhouse this morning, followed by the game against the Blue Jays at 1:05 p.m. Unlike yesterday's blacked-out opener, you can watch this one on YES or listen in on WCBS-AM 880. Or, of course, follow my in-game Twitter updates (@ESPNNYYankees).