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Yankees, Unit ready for 2006

Big Unit looks to make the grade vs. A's

Randy Johnson's Opening Day start last season was more than just another game.

It marked the first start for the Big Unit in pinstripes, his first Yankees start against the rival Red Sox, his first home game in the Bronx, and the game happened to kick off the entire 2005 schedule.

Monday night, Johnson will take the ball for a 14th time in a season opener, the most among all active pitchers. But the Red Sox won't be across the field, and the eyes of the entire baseball world won't be focused squarely on the left-hander. It will be just another Opening Day.

"I think it will be more comfortable for him," said manager Joe Torre. "I think that's been from Spring Training all the way through. It's been less hectic than last year."

Johnson doesn't buy into the theory that his first game last year was any bigger than a typical Opening Day. Johnson's performance on the mound was certainly typical, as he limited the Sox to one run over six innings, earning one of his five wins over Boston.

"I don't mind that kind of stuff," Johnson said. "It comes with the territory. I thought I handled it pretty well under the circumstances, not knowing what to expect."

The bottom line for the Big Unit is that, in year two, he won't have to worry about many of the things that come with a star player's first year in New York. Johnson insists that 2006 has been no different for him than 2005, but Jason Giambi -- who went through the same thing in 2002-03 -- believes that the second year in pinstripes is considerably easier for any player.

"I think he was harder on himself," Giambi said of Johnson's 2005 performance. "He wanted to come in here and win 25 games. He battled for us, and even when he didn't have his best stuff, he helped us win. You know you've had a great career when 17 wins is a bad year."

"Once you get used to everything being magnified," added Giambi, "you take a different perspective of things."

Torre agreed with Giambi, saying that Johnson has seemed more at ease both on and off the field this spring.

"His demeanor walking around the clubhouse is different than last year," the manager said. "I sense he's a little more comfortable overall."

Another thing Johnson will have going for him on Monday will be the mild weather in Oakland, a sharp contrast from the chilly night on which he debuted in the Bronx a year ago. Johnson's first two starts will come in Oakland and Anaheim, so he won't have to deal with the potential for cold until April 13, when he faces the Royals at Yankee Stadium.

"It wasn't a major factor when I pitched at home on Opening Night in 45 degrees," Johnson said. "A lot of people said I wasn't used to pitching in that, but I did what I had to do. In cold weather, the adrenaline takes effect. It will be nice to pitch on the West Coast, in that kind of weather."

  Yankees probable lineup
 Pos.Name
1.CFJohnny Damon
2.SSDerek Jeter
3.RFGary Sheffield
4.3BAlex Rodriguez
5.1BJason Giambi
6.LFHideki Matsui
7.CJorge Posada
8.DHBernie Williams
9.2BRobinson Cano
PRandy Johnson

Pitching matchup
NYY: LHP Randy Johnson
• 17-8, 3.79 ERA in 2005
• 1-0, 4.50 ERA in 2005 vs. OAK
• 12-7, 2.83 ERA lifetime vs. OAK

OAK: LHP Barry Zito
• 14-13, 3.86 ERA in 2005
• 0-1, 7.59 ERA in 2005 vs. NYY
• 2-7, 4.64 ERA lifetime vs. NYY

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
NYY: YES Network
OAK: KICU-36/Cable 6

On radio
NYY: WCBS 880 AM
OAK: KYCY 1550 AM

On deck:
• Tuesday: at Oakland, 10:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: at Oakland, 10:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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