NEW YORK -- The Yankees have shuffled the heart of their lineup, bumping Alex Rodriguez to the third spot and making Robinson Cano the regular cleanup hitter against right-handed starters.
Before Friday's home opener against the Angels, manager Joe Girardi said that he made the change because it would create more difficulty for opponents to navigate the lineup with left-handed relievers in the late innings.
"If you think that's a story, wait until I take over [Derek] Jeter's spot in the leadoff spot," Rodriguez quipped. "That'll be a real story. No matter where you hit, you've got to just basically produce.
"It does one thing -- it presents a situation or a decision for the opposing manager each and every day. At some point, someone should get a pretty favorable matchup."
Girardi said that he had toyed with the idea of making the switch in Baltimore on Wednesday after seeing how the Rays utilized left-handed relievers in the season-opening series at Tropicana Field.
Girardi plans to use this order moving forward against righties. Rodriguez will continue to serve as the cleanup hitter against left-handed starters, with Cano batting third.
"Everything is good," Cano said. "I feel good at the plate, and everything is going to be fine. I would say that I'm just happy to be in this lineup. Batting fourth isn't going to make [any] difference."
Rodriguez said that he spoke to Girardi about the move, adding, "That stuff doesn't really matter. You show up to play wherever they put you, you go out and play and you try to win a ballgame."
Girardi said that the switch was not a reaction to boost production. Rodriguez entered Friday's game hitting .174 (4-for-23), while Cano was hitting .250 (7-for-28). Neither player had collected an RBI, while No. 5 hitter Mark Teixeira was batting .200 (5-for-25) with one RBI.
"Sometimes, when you think of lack of production, you move people down in the lineup," Girardi said. "They're still three and four and five. So, no, it really has nothing to do with that. It's more [about] just making it more difficult on the other clubs."
Move to Posada's locker humbles Cano
NEW YORK -- Robinson Cano has acquired some choice real estate at Yankee Stadium, moving into the locker stall previously occupied by Jorge Posada.
The Bombers' second baseman did not ask for the relocation, but he was pleased to find where equipment manager Rob Cucuzza had placed his nameplate before Friday's 5-0 win over the Angels in the Yankees' home opener.
"Being in Posada's locker, it's an honor," Cano said. "He was here for a long time -- one of the best catchers in Yankee history."
Posada's locker, adjacent to those of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, was always an interesting stop in the clubhouse. The top shelf featured mementos from Posada's career, including a yellowed newspaper clipping of a story about Thurman Munson.
"I've got to make him proud, to be in his locker," Cano said.
In AL, Pujols presents new challenge to Yanks
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter joked that the Yankees' pitchers are "doing backflips" in the clubhouse about the prospect of having to face Albert Pujols on a regular basis this season.
As the recently signed Angels slugger makes his first visit to the new Yankee Stadium, the Bombers feel that Pujols' transition to the American League is good for baseball in general, but it won't help them win any games against a tough Halos club.
"It's exciting for Angels fans; it's exciting for baseball fans getting an opportunity to see him," Jeter said. "We haven't played him much. I know Albert from All-Star Games.
"You know he's going to bring a lot of excitement to the Angels, but it's not like you enjoy competing against a guy -- talking from a pitcher's perspective -- that's arguably the best hitter in the game."
Yankees hurlers haven't seen much of Pujols. Hiroki Kuroda entered Friday's start having faced Pujols the most of any active Yankees pitcher, holding the right-handed slugger to a .200 (3-for-15) performance with a double and an RBI. The Yankees have six active pitchers who had never faced Pujols.
"Obviously, he's one of the greatest hitters in the game," Kuroda said through a translator. "I have to challenge him and stay aggressive against him."
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said that it was nice to have another star in the league who was drawing attention for his huge contract. Pujols inked a 10-year, $240 million deal over the offseason, though it still trumps Rodriguez's pact with the Yankees.
"That's exciting -- they've been doing a lot of that lately," Rodriguez said. "Baseball is in a good place, it's a good matchup, and we're excited to hopefully get a big win in front of our home fans."
Jeter said that he believes Pujols' deal will prove to be a good signing for the Angels.
"The contract, he deserves it," Jeter said. "He's been playing well for a very, very long time. He deserves everything he gets."
Entering play on Friday, the Yankees' bullpen had recorded 15 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings. As a whole, Bombers relievers had posted a 2.11 ERA this season, marking the second-best bullpen ERA in the AL.
When the Yankees started a different designated hitter -- Raul Ibanez, Jeter, Nick Swisher, Rodriguez and Andruw Jones -- in each of their first five games this season, they became just the second club in Major League history to do so. The 2004 Cleveland Indians were the other.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was on the field during Yankees batting practice on Friday.
On this date in 1921, Babe Ruth went 5-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs as the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia A's, 11-1, on Opening Day. On this date in 1978, the outfield at Yankee Stadium was showered with "Reggie!" candy bars after Reggie Jackson slugged a three-run homer in the first inning. The Yankees defeated the White Sox, 4-2, in the home opener.