It would be an understatement to say that the Yankees started the season flat. But all it took was a couple games in Cleveland for the Bombers to start exceeding expectations. Five wins and five losses is far from a hot start, but it leaves the Yankees just one game behind the Red Sox for the AL East lead, and it is precisely the kind of performance the Yankees need to remain in the hunt until Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter return. Most of the focus has fallen on Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells, new Yankees who have gotten off to unsustainable hot starts to help keep the team competitive, but the best two players on the team have been old hands: Robinson Cano and CC Sabathia. Cano started the season right where he left things off in the playoffs. He was ice cold. Since the opening round versus Boston, however, Robbie has caught fire. He's put together as strong a 10 games as any in his career, posting a .434 wOBA. If there has been any weakness to Robbie's game throughout his career it has been his risk to start slowly in the cold months. So far it looks like Cano is getting off to a hot start, and the Yankees will be the beneficiaries.
CC Sabathia's season thus far has been eerily similar to Cano's. He wasn't sharp in his first start against Boston, but he turned things around in his second start versus Detroit and kept it rolling against the Orioles. Sabathia has often been a slow starter in his career, putting up weaker than average numbers in April before pulling off a streak of hot starts in the warmer months. His strong recent performance has been an unexpected surprise. It is also precisely what the Yankees need right now. If the team can count on Sabathia to give them a solid start every fifth game in these early months it will go a long way toward righting the ship until the Yankees are at full strength.
2013 is a test season. Fans have bemoaned the Yankee austerity budget (with good reason), but Brian Cashman has established a solid track record of stitching together teams from low-cost veterans. That's exactly what Cashman did again this season to fill the roster. If this process works it will help establish the precise number of superstars the Yankees need to combine with savvy role players to remain competitive. With Sabathia and Cano playing like this, that number may not be much higher than two.