The Yankees play in Tampa once again on Friday, but there's a pretty big difference this time.
This game counts in the standings. It's Opening Day, boys and girls, so don't let the dreary surroundings of the Trop rob you of the joy that should always accompany this day on the calender.
As with any Yankees season, this one starts with the goal of a World Series title and a parade up Broadway come the fall. And, as with every other Yankee season since the early 90s, there are myriad reasons to believe that they can see their way clear to achieving that goal.
The biggest difference from past years is that the pitching staff is one of those reasons instead of a lingering area of worry as the season gets underway.
Things might not have worked out exactly as hoped with Michael Pineda during spring training, but the addition of Andy Pettitte means that a 97-win team added three above average -- potentially, at least -- starting pitchers to the roster.
No amount of hedging can downplay the significance of those arms to a team that was short on other holes. We can't know exactly how things are going to shake out in terms of which starters wind up filling out the rotation when the stretch run comes around, but we can harbor a great deal of hope that any mixture of names is going to serve the Yankees well this time around.
The return to excellence of the Yankee pitching staff is just the top of the wishlist for this season, though. Here are a few other developments we're hoping to see this season.
Curtis Granderson, Part Two - No one saw Grandy's 2011 season coming, but it was an essential part of the team's division title and a welcome development from a player whose talent never quite matched up to his final numbers. The Yankees hope they'll get more from some other bats this season, but it wouldn't hurt to get an encore from Granderson.
Eduardo Nunez as the super utility man - There aren't many teams in baseball that wouldn't have carved out a regular starting spot for Nunez by this point in his career, but, as if you needed the reminder, the Yankees aren't many teams. He should wind up playing almost every day this year, though, and the promise he's shown thus far makes it hard not to think that's a good thing.
Raul Ibanez bounces back - Just kidding. That's a pipe dream, not a realistic wish.
Young arms rising - As mentioned above, there's plenty of good pitching at the big league level right now. That doesn't mean it wouldn't be nice to see Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances or other young guns force their way onto the mound before all is said and done.
Swisher and Teixeira playing the whole season - We expect the Yankees to play in October, so it doesn't seem too inappropriate to state right up front that another October slumber from these two would be very disappointing. It's never been easy to understand why they can't hit when the playoffs start, so let's stop trying to figure it out.
More A-Rod - We're not asking for 162 games and no aches or pains. How about 130 games and some sign that the rest of his endless contract isn't going to be a yearly exercise in watching a man completely fall to pieces.
A Worthy Last Hurrah - If this is it for Mariano Rivera (and we really, really hope it isn't while expecting it will be), let it be a final year that puts the icing on the marvelous cake he has built since 1996. There wouldn't be a better way to end Mo's career than with one last dogpile on the pitcher's mound, which makes this a pretty good place to end this wishlist.