April 2, 2013 at 6:02 am

Tony Paul: Baseball insider

These aren't your typical Yankees

With Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter out with injuries, the current Yankees contingent doesn't exactly put a scare into opposing teams. (Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

Wait, these are the Yankees?

Coulda fooled me.

During pregame introductions at Yankee Stadium on Monday, fans had to come to the realization this team could be in trouble — if they hadn't already.

With injuries to Derek Jeter (ankle), Alex Rodriguez (hip), Curtis Granderson (forearm) and Mark Teixeira (wrist), and with Nick Swisher (Indians), Russell Martin (Pirates) and Raul Ibanez (Mariners) playing elsewhere, here's the lineup the Yankees had to roll with in the opener against the Red Sox:

Brett Gardner, CF

Eduardo Nunez, SS

Robinson Cano, 2B

Kevin Youkilis, 1B

Vernon Wells, LF

Ben Francisco, DH

Ichiro Suzuki, RF

Jayson Nix, 3B

Francisco Cervelli, C

Not much thunder in Joe Girardi's starting nine.

ESPN offered a stunning stat: Nine of their 10 homer leaders from 2012 are either gone or on the disabled list.

The end result: Arguably the worst Opening Day lineup in 20-plus years for the Yankees — since, by my research, 1991, when, in a Game 1 loss at Tiger Stadium, it was Steve Sax, Don Mattingly, Roberto Kelly, Kevin Maas, Hensley Meulens, Jesse Barfield, Jim Leyritz, Mike Blowers and Alvaro Espinoza.

The Red Sox won 8-2 on Monday — and from a photo I saw on Twitter, I'd be stunned if there were 1,000 people left in that ballpark when the final pitch was thrown.

At least the Yankees should get Jeter back soon, perhaps Saturday for a nationally televised game at Comerica Park. But Granderson is out until at least early May, Teixeira until at least late May, and Rodriguez for more than half the season, if not all of it.

In that super-competitive AL East, it's tough to imagine the Yankees staying afloat until at least two of them return.

Harper fuels more hype

Ah, Opening Day, always a great day for those crazy "he's on pace for …" statistics.

This year, starring Bryce Harper — who, through two at-bats, was on pace for 621 home runs in 2013.

The Nationals slugger went deep in his first two at-bats of the season, off Marlins ace Ricky Nolasco . Those accounted for the only runs in the 2-0 game. He came up short in his bid to be the first major leaguer with a three-homer game on Opening Day since Dmitri Young did it for the Tigers in 2005.

Those homers made great party favors for a Nationals crowd in as good a mood as ever, considering, for the first time, their team is favored to reach the World Series, and maybe even win the franchise's first championship.

On that note, we offer you the first brewing controversy for the year, involving manager Davey Johnson . He gets a ton of credit for being the face of the turnaround, but he's 70 and in his final year on the job. That was the club's call.

Thoughts?

"The Nationals are more comfortable with that than me," Johnson told the Washington Post on the eve of Opening Day. "I don't really go to that point. I think you basically work till you die."

Unless, that is, you work for Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria . Good to see first-year manager Mike Redmond wasn't canned after the loss, which featured former Tigers infielder Placido Polanco batting cleanup. Ugh.

Historic whiffs

Interleague play on Opening Day?

Welcome to the new Major League Baseball.

The Angels and Reds played the first crossover series of 2013, in Cincinnati.

That means Jered Weaver had the honor of being the first AL pitcher to bat in an Opening Day game since Pat Dobson and Mel Stottlemyre Sr. in 1972. The next year, the designated hitter was born.

Weaver hit twice, and struck out twice.

The Tigers and Marlins, by the way, play the final interleague series of the year. They close against each other.

Astros get off the ground

The Astros, with a $22 million payroll, kicked off the season with a victory in their AL debut — and over the rival Rangers, to boot.

First place, at least for a day. By September, they just might be trying to avoid the Mets record for losses (120), and the Tigers AL record (119).

A race for fans

Think you know how the Tigers are gonna do this year?

Prove it.

Enter The Detroit News Over-Under Contest, back this year by popular demand. Get details at detroitnews.com. You have till noon Friday to enter.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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