Yanks take second shot at opener

Yanks take second shot at opener

Some birthday present this was.

Chien-Ming Wang stood in front of his locker at Yankee Stadium on Monday, wondering how to fill the rest of an afternoon that was supposed to feature all the pomp and pageantry of his long-awaited Opening Day start.

"I'll go home and relax for [Tuesday]," Wang said. "Of course I am very disappointed that I wasn't able to pitch."

How would you have done, someone asked?

"Very good," Wang said. "No-hitter."

Wang will get his chance to prove it as the Yankees and Blue Jays rev back up for Opening Day Part II, the final season opener in Yankee Stadium's history. The game will mark the second night home opener in Yankees history -- the first was a 9-2 victory over the Red Sox on April 3, 2005 -- and ensures that there will never be a March game played in the current ballpark.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the club will bring back its original starting lineup for the makeup affair, and Alex Rodriguez said he should have no problem getting back in the mind-set of a season opener.

"If you're not excited about Opening Day, you shouldn't be playing," Rodriguez said. "It's one of the most special days of the year."

They'd better be ready to play -- and keep playing. Because of Monday's rainout, the Yankees will play 21 days in a row without a scheduled off-day -- a scheduling quirk that will have them host the Blue Jays, Rays and Red Sox, then take them to Kansas City, Boston, St. Petersburg and Baltimore before they finally get a breather.

Farewell Yankee Stadium

"What can you do?" Joba Chamberlain said. "The schedule is made. You can't complain about it. There's always a method behind the madness."

Girardi said that his position players in particular should enjoy the rapid-fire succession of games on the Yankees' future slate.

"Guys want to play in a row," Girardi said. "Sometimes the hardest thing about the first month is that you have six days off or five days off. Guys want to get into a routine, and by playing in a lot of games early on, you get into your routine quicker. "

The start is redemption for Wang, just a little more than a year after a strained right hamstring cost him most of April. Wang rebounded to tie a career high in wins for the second consecutive season (recording 19 for the second consecutive season), going 19-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 30 starts and establishing a career high with 104 strikeouts.

"I'm very happy," Wang said. "This is my first time on Opening Day. For me, it's big. I'm very excited. It shows that the coaches trust me. I still have a lot to learn."

Lauded for his bowling ball-like sinker and a repertoire that is expected to make use of his four-seam fastball, changeup, slider and splitter, Wang didn't have a whole lot of success this spring, going 2-1 with an 8.44 ERA in 10 2/3 innings of Grapefruit League work.

But his track record speaks volumes: He has won more games (38) than any other big league pitcher over the past two years and leads the Majors with a .745 winning percentage in that span.

Ranking second in the American League last year with a 2.75 home ERA and tying for third with 10 home wins, Wang was a logical choice to get the start in New York. His 21 wins in 33 Yankee Stadium starts over the past two seasons are the most home victories by any big league pitcher since the beginning of 2006.

He may have some added motivation as well. Wang missed last year's season opener after straining a hamstring during conditioning drills in late March -- he still remembers watching from his Tampa, Fla., apartment as Carl Pavano drew the start for the Yankees.

Even more recently, Wang is still looking to rebound from a disastrous October in which he suffered a pair of losses in the Yankees' first-round playoff exit.

Wang has said that it took him a month to get over those games, in which he was roughed up for 12 runs and 14 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Pitching on three days' rest in Game 4 of the American League Division Series, Wang did not retire an Indians batter in the second inning.

"The two losses make me want to do even better this year," Wang said. "I want to make the coaches trust me even more in the future."

Girardi said that Wang's balanced and relaxed personality lends itself well to an assignment like Opening Night, and he was glad Wang needed one month to get over his October disappointment.

"That tells me that he really cares and he wants to get better," Girardi said. "That actually excites me. I think he will continue to improve."

Pitching matchup
TOR: RHP Roy Halladay (16-7, 3.71 ERA in 2007)
The Blue Jays ace is making his team-record sixth straight Opening Day start.

NYY: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (19-7, 3.70 ERA in 2007)
Wang has captured 19 victories in each of the past two seasons with New York.

Bombers bits
Johnny Damon has logged the most career at-bats against Halladay, batting .328 (22-for-67) with three doubles, one home run and two RBIs. ... Jason Giambi has three career home runs off Halladay and is a .315 hitter (17-for-54) against him. ... The Yankees were 10-8 against Toronto in 2007, including 5-4 at Yankee Stadium. ... The Yankees have won three consecutive Opening Days and six of their last eight, including a 2003 opener at Toronto in which Roger Clemens outdueled Halladay.

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

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS 880 AM

Up next
• Wednesday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 11-10, 5.15) vs. Blue Jays (A.J. Burnett, 10-8, 3.75), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Yankees (Phil Hughes, 5-3, 4.46) vs. Blue Jays (Dustin McGowan, 12-10, 4.08), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Yankees (Ian Kennedy, 1-0, 1.89) vs. Blue Jays (Dustin McGowan, 5-15, 5.76), 7:05 p.m. ET

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