After reaching the postseason 17 times in 18 years, the New York Yankees have missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons. They’re obviously hoping to buck that trend in 2015, but they’ll need their rotation – especially Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) and CC Sabathia (knee) – to stay on the field.

“I think if we just stay healthy, that is the biggest key,” Sabathia said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Just watching in spring training and watching (Tanaka) and seeing the way (Michael Pineda) dominated – if we can stay healthy, I think we can go out there, dominate and get us back in the playoffs. I think that’s the biggest key.”

The Yankees didn’t quite get off on the right foot Monday, losing to Toronto, 6-1, on Opening Day. Still, there were some bright spots – such as Alex Rodriguez going 1-for-2 with a walk and, perhaps more importantly, receiving thunderous applause from the home crowd.

Sabathia said that Rodriguez, 39, has been welcomed back with open arms following his suspension.

“Yeah, I think from day one, I don’t think that was ever going to be a problem,” Sabathia said. “I think everybody was just ready for him to get back and put everything behind him and try to help us win. I think that’s the biggest key – if he can go out and produce for us and try to get some big hits and drive in some runs and help this team get back to the playoffs.”

While Rodriguez could provide some power as a DH, Brandon Tierney feels the Yankees’ most important everyday player is Mark Teixeira, a switch-hitting Gold Glover with some pop.

“Yeah, he’s definitely a big part of it,” Sabathia said. “If he can stay out there and stay healthy, he’s always been able to produce. If Carlos (Beltran) can stay healthy too, he’s going to be a big part of our team hitting in the middle of our lineup. (He’s a) switch-hitter with a lot of pop and a lot of playoff experience. Like I said, if we can all just stay out there, we got the talent, we got the guys and it looks pretty good so far.”

Sabathia, meanwhile, is trying to find his groove after starting just eight games last season. He allowed nine runs in 10 innings in spring training.

“For me, it was just getting out there and being healthy,” Sabathia said. “I got a chance to get three or four starts. For me, it was just getting comfortable back on the mound – game situation, throwing my bullpens, making my turn in the rotation, it was just something that I wanted to do. My results weren’t the greatest, but it is spring training, so I’ll be ready to go out there Thursday night.”

Sabathia will take the hill against Toronto at 7:05 p.m. ET.

He enters the season as the No. 3 starter behind Tanaka and Pineda, this after starting six consecutive Opening Days. Sabathia, however, said “it was fun” not starting Opening Day this season.

“You know why?” Sabathia asked. “That’s really stressful, man, to be out there. There’s a lot going on on Opening Day. Everybody’s coming to the park, it’s a big buzz, you got a lot of family coming in and trying to get tickets and stuff – I really enjoyed it yesterday. I mean, it was a tough loss. (Tanaka) really pitched good. It was just the one inning. But for me, getting a chance to experience the fans and running out to the line for the first time, it was fun to be a part of it.”


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