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What You Need to Know about Opening Day

MLB.com @BryanHoch

After a spring that lived up to his expectations of life as a member of the Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton is ready to embrace the challenges that await for the reigning National League Most Valuable Player Award winner, beginning the second phase of his career in Thursday's season opener against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

"There will be a lot of stuff going on in the beginning of the season," Stanton said. "The main focus is to be ready between the lines, and the rest is going to be exciting, opening up both places -- New York and Toronto. I'm just looking forward to getting the season going."

After a spring that lived up to his expectations of life as a member of the Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton is ready to embrace the challenges that await for the reigning National League Most Valuable Player Award winner, beginning the second phase of his career in Thursday's season opener against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

"There will be a lot of stuff going on in the beginning of the season," Stanton said. "The main focus is to be ready between the lines, and the rest is going to be exciting, opening up both places -- New York and Toronto. I'm just looking forward to getting the season going."

Joining a roster that finished one victory from the World Series, Stanton could put the Yanks over the top. They will be banking on continued success from their key contributors, including emerging superstar Aaron Judge, who finished second in the American League MVP chase while becoming the Yankees' first AL Rookie of the Year Award winner since Derek Jeter in 1996.

"The feeling is going to be the same," Judge said. "It was an incredible year last year. What a team we had, one game away from the World Series. It was quite a run, but our ultimate goal is not only to make it to the World Series, but to win it."

Projected Opening Day lineup
1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
4. Gary Sanchez, C
5. Aaron Hicks, CF
6. Didi Gregorius, SS
7. Brandon Drury, 3B
8. Neil Walker, 2B
9. Tyler Austin, 1B

Key roles
• This is an adjusted version of the lineup that manager Aaron Boone sent out against the Red Sox last Friday, when he experimented with Judge in the leadoff spot. Boone said there was a "strong case" to use it against left-handed pitching, and the Blue Jays are giving the ball to southpaw J.A. Happ for the opener. Judge produced a .439 on-base percentage against lefties in 2017, and a .422 on-base percentage overall.

Video: BOS@NYY: Judge gets his first hit in the leadoff spot

• The closer's role belongs to Aroldis Chapman, but the setup mix should be fairly fluid. Boone and pitching coach Larry Rothschild see no reason to define roles, especially with a crew that can work in a variety of situations. David Robertson is the poster boy, but Dellin Betances, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren are also among those willing to take the ball in any inning and for any length.

• Even before Greg Bird's injury, Boone said that he saw avenues for Wade and Walker to log significant playing time by sharing duties at second base. The switch-hitting Walker has been taking grounders at first, second and third bases, while the left-handed-hitting Wade continues to impress with his athleticism and versatility.

Video: NYY@DET: Boone on Wade's spring, lineup choices

Injury Updates
• Bird underwent surgery on Tuesday to remove a small broken spur on the outside aspect of his right ankle. The surgery was performed by foot and ankle specialist Dr. Martin O'Malley at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan and is expected to keep Bird out for 6-8 weeks.

Jacoby Ellsbury missed most of Spring Training due to a strained right oblique, returning to action in the last week of camp. The veteran will remain behind in Florida to log at-bats, with general manager Brian Cashman saying that Ellsbury needs about 40 or 50 plate appearances to catch up. In the meantime, the Yankees are opening the season with a three-man bench.

Clint Frazier was a long shot to make the roster even before he sustained a concussion in the Yanks' second game of the spring. The team is being cautious with the promising outfielder, who has resumed baseball activities. No timetable for Minor League games has been announced.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton