- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

BALTIMORE | It’s time for CC Sabathia to start earning some of that $161 million he received to help get the New York Yankees to the World Series.

Sabathia formally begins his tenure with the retooled Yankees on Monday at Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles will be forced to share Opening Day festivities with their AL East rivals, thousands of loud New York fans and one of the best pitchers in either league.

Sabathia has a lifetime record of 117-73 with 1,393 strikeouts and went 11-2 with Milwaukee over the final two months of the 2008 season before signing a seven-year contract with New York. What better person to represent the new-look Yankees on Opening Day than the 6-foot-7, 290-pound Sabathia?

“Any time you have a guy like that on the mound, it can be a little intimidating,” Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said. “But that’s what makes it fun. We’re going to really try to battle him.”

After having their streak of 13 straight playoff appearances ended last year, the Yankees added Sabathia, pitcher A.J. Burnett, outfielder Nick Swisher and first baseman Mark Teixeira, a Maryland native who spurned a seven-year, $140 million offer from the Orioles and overtures from the Washington Nationals to take an eight-year, $180 deal with New York.

“The Nationals and the Orioles, they made a good run at me,” Teixeira said over the weekend. “In the end, the Yankees had everything that I wanted.”

Including Sabathia, who also will help open the new Yankee Stadium by pitching the home opener April 16. He can’t wait to walk to the mound against the Orioles, who this year hope to end a run of 11 consecutive losing seasons.

“It’s going to be good. I’m excited about getting out there and getting the season started,” Sabathia said.

While the Yankees spent big bucks over the winter, Baltimore signed shortstop Cesar Izturis and catcher Gregg Zaun. Therein lies one of the biggest differences between these two teams, but the Orioles are delighted to get the opportunity to show what they have on Opening Day - even if the much of the focus will be on Sabathia and New York.

“We’ll get a lot of national attention, a lot of exposure,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “But I think Opening Day should, in itself, be very special - this one, maybe a little bit more so because of who we’re playing.”

Armed with baseball’s steepest payroll, the Yankees realize the importance of beginning the season on a roll. New York went 14-15 last April and never really recovered in its first season under manager Joe Girardi.

“Hopefully this year we can get out to a good start. The last few years we dug ourselves a little hole,” said shortstop Derek Jeter, who will bat leadoff Monday in New York’s revised batting order.

Sabathia also knows the importance of beginning the season in a positive fashion. With Cleveland last season, he yielded five runs over 5 1/3 innings in the opener against the Chicago White Sox and owned a 1-5 record on May 3.

“I just got off to a bad start. Just couldn’t get pitches where they needed to be,” he said. “This spring I tried to come in and work on getting my pitches where they need to be. Hopefully I get the team off to a good start and get myself off to a good start.”

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