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Wednesday, March 13, 2013
First Pitch: It's almost like the real Yankees

By Wallace Matthews

TAMPA, Fla. -- OK, so Robinson Cano won't be here, and neither will Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez or Curtis Granderson.

But when you have a Yankees game these days that pretty much guarantees you Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, it actually starts to feel like the real thing again.

After the Whos-on-First-What's-on-Second-I-Don't-Know's-on-Third lineup Joe Girardi sent to Port Charlotte on Monday -- which, incidentally, beat the Tampa bay Rays, 3-1 -- it will be refreshing to see a lineup that at least faintly resembles the one that will take the field on April 1, Opening Day, against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

More importantly, it will mark our first look at Jeter playing shortstop since his broken ankle last October, our first look since last year at Andy Pettitte pitching to someone in an enemy uniform, and our second look at Mariano Rivera this spring.

And since today's opponent, the Phillies, are based just 20 miles away in Clearwater, they usually send something close to their real lineup, too. Plus, Cliff Lee is going for Philadelphia tonight (7:05 p.m., YES, WCBS-AM).

So even though this is still practice baseball, tonight's game is the most significant of the spring so far. As much as most of us believe Jeter to be capable of doing something few men in baseball have ever done, namely, play an everyday shortstop at age 38-going-on-39, tonight we get to see him actually do it. Same goes for Pettitte, who will turn 41 in June and whose spring so far has been limited to throwing live batting practice. As for Mariano, nothing seems beyond his capabilities. Still, he is 43 and coming off knee surgery.

Besides, how many more times will you get to see the remaining three of the Core Four appear in the same game before Mo calls it quits at the end of the season?

If you were forced to watch only one preseason game all spring, this might very well be the game to watch.

Which brings us to our Question of the Day: We all know Mariano is retiring this year, but which of the remaining two, Jeter or Pettitte, do you think will be an effective player the longest? Let us know in the comments section.

UP NOW: A couple of blogs off yesterday's game, one dealing with how Mo's tough words scared Ivan Nova straight, and another about Francisco Cervelli's excellent spring, which I believe should have him well ahead of Chris Stewart in the race for the starting catcher's job.

ON DECK: I'll have a live Yankees chat at noon -- I'll post the link later this morning -- and I'll be in the clubhouse when it opens at 2 p.m. Lineups will be posted shortly thereafter, followed by some pre-game notes. You can also follow my in-game updates via my Twitter feed, @ESPNNYankees. As always, thanks for choosing to fly ESPNNewYork.com for your Yankees coverage.