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New faces take center stage in Grapefruit opener

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees spent the winter months working to repopulate their clubhouse, seeking out star players with solid track records in hopes of assembling the caliber of club that could bring a 28th World Series title to the Bronx.

Those additions came with a hefty price tag, but the Yankees believe that they were worthwhile investments. Manager Joe Girardi will be able to see some of his newest players in action on Wednesday, when the Yankees open their Grapefruit League schedule against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Catcher Brian McCann, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and right fielder Carlos Beltran are all scheduled to make the trip, representing three highlights of the offseason spending spree and a combined $283 million in salary commitments.

"It's good to see. [We'll] get to see them in our uniform, guys that have had success other places," Girardi said. "I'm excited to see it."

Right-hander Ivan Nova is scheduled to make the start, opposed by left-hander Francisco Liriano. The Yankees opened their home slate with an 8-3 exhibition win over Florida State University on Tuesday.

New York is scheduled to host Pittsburgh on Thursday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, a contest that will be Derek Jeter's first of the year. That game can be watched on MLB.TV and YES, and heard via Gameday Audio and WFAN.

McCann was New York's first big target, landing a five-year, $85 million pact in November. Upgrading behind the plate was a priority for the Yankees, and they are counting on the fact that McCann -- who hit at least 20 homers in each of the past six seasons for the Braves -- will make a smooth transition to the American League.

"They were the first ones to call," McCann said of the Yankees. "Right away, they said they wanted to come get me. Once I came to New York and met all the guys, it was a great experience, so it just kind of went from there."

McCann was thrilled by the pace of the offseason. With money to spend, the Yankees moved on to chase Ellsbury, Beltran and right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, as well as other complementary additions, including Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson and Matt Thornton.

"It seemed like every other week we were getting another great free agent," McCann said. "So already, with the team that they had here, with [Mark Teixeira] coming back and Jeter coming back, you look around, and it's a very exciting team."

Ellsbury agreed to a seven-year, $153 million deal in early December, coming off the free-agent board before the Winter Meetings. The speedy leadoff hitter promises to provide a dynamic presence in the order, trading his Red Sox uniform to begin a new chapter in pinstripes.

"I'm the same player from day one when I signed," Ellsbury said. "That's the mentality I'm going to take. You play the game hard, you play the game the right way, good things are going to happen."

Recognizing that his time in Boston was likely coming to an end, Ellsbury signed with the Yankees because he believes that the organization will give him a chance to add a championship ring to his collection.

"Once you get a taste of that one time -- and fortunately, I've had the chance to do it twice -- that's what you go into each year striving for," he said.

Beltran has been itching for the chance to wear a Yankees uniform for quite some time. He met with club executives, including the late Steinbrenner, back in the winter of 2004-05 to pitch his services -- a proposal that the Yankees ultimately passed on.

The eight-time All-Star finally landed his dream gig this winter, signing a three-year, $45 million pact. He made it to his first World Series last October with the Cardinals and expects to make at least one more trip.

"I look at the team, I look at our situation and the players that we have, and we have a pretty good chance," Beltran said. "Last year I experienced being in the playoffs and being in the World Series with the Cardinals, and it was a great feeling. Once you play there, you want to go there every year. Everything starts in Spring Training."

Girardi expects that McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran will each play four or five innings on Wednesday, depending on the length of the frames. Girardi is not concerned about his new stars getting acclimated.

"I don't worry so much about that right now," he said. "As we get further down the road, I'll pay attention to make sure they are comfortable and they feel like they know exactly what is expected of them. But so far, so good."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.
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