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Thursday, April 3, 2014
First Pitch: Sori, Yanks try to avoid sweep

By Andrew Marchand

HOUSTON --- The Yankees are right when they say it has only been two games, even if they were against the Houston Astros, who have three-peated as the worst team in baseball.

Still, even Joe Girardi elevated the panic alert for Thursday's game, when the Yankees will try to avoid being swept.

"It is an important game because obviously you want to get on that side of the column and you want to start putting some wins together," Girardi said.

Girardi and his guys rightly have downplayed overplaying the significance of the first two games. As trite as it is, their mantra of it just being two of 162 is correct.

So watching all the hitters, it is difficult to say that this two-game sample size means much, except maybe for Alfonso Soriano. There were decision-makers among the Yankees last season that were a little more hesitant to trade for Soriano because of his streakiness.

He has started this season 0-for-8 with half his outs coming on strikeouts. It is Grandy Man-esque.

"A little too aggressive," Soriano said. "I have to calm it down a bit."

Soriano can become very hot, which everyone saw in his incredible run with the Yankees in 2013. But there was a reason the Cubs were willing to let him go for the immortal Corey Black.

The Yankees have seen the very best of the 38-year-old Soriano. Now, they could be seeing the other side. Girardi is going to use that DH spot to give guys like Derek Jeter a rest. Soriano is off right now.

"He is just not quite on track," Girardi said. "We talk about early in the season, sometimes it is glaring, in a sense. If you get 200 at-bats under your belts, you don't really say much about it. He's a very good hitter and he'll be productive."

It is way too early to think about roles being changed, but Soriano's swing is one to watch.

On the mound: Ivan Nova will make his first start of the 2014 season. He doesn't feel any extra pressure to stop the two-game slide.

"There is no reason to panic," Nova said.

Nova even predicted the team would get the bats going.

"I bet you when we start hitting, it is going to be a really good lineup," Nova said.

North of the border: Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to fly to Toronto on Thursday so he can get a good night's rest for his debut on Friday. This is nothing out of the ordinary. No word if Tanaka rented a full jet for maximum comfort. (Note: I'm pretty sure he didn't.)

Pitching matchups:

Thursday: Nova (9-6, 3.10 in 2013) vs. Brett Oberholtzer (4-5, 2.76 in 2013)

Friday vs. Blue Jays: Tanaka (24-0, 1.27 ERA in Japan in 2013) vs. Dustin McGowan (0-0, 2.45 in 2013)

Saturday: Michael Pineda (no record in 2013) vs. R.A. Dickey (0-1, 10.80 in 2014)

Sunday: CC Sabathia (0-1, 9.00 ERA in 2014) vs. Drew Hutchinson (1-0, 0.00 in 2014).

Question: Is Soriano the hitter you are most concerned about?