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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Yankees waste no time turning page

Season is still young, but influx of new players making big impact

Yankees waste no time turning page

BOSTON -- How's that for turning the page? Nice going, Yankees. Way to put Wednesday's pine tar incident in your rearview mirror.

Maybe the Yankees didn't win this one for Michael Pineda on Thursday. They did just that, but maybe that wasn't their intent.

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As expected, Major League Baseball slapped Pineda with a 10-game suspension for going to the mound in the second inning Wednesday with a glob of pine tar prominently displayed on the right side of his neck.

Pineda again said he was sorry that he'd let his teammates down as he began serving his suspension. Yankees manager Joe Girardi dutifully answered an assortment of questions about Pineda before Thursday's game, and he then gently reminded reporters all that really mattered was winning that day's game.

"I've moved on," Girardi said.

His players had, too.

The Yankees opened up some nice new story lines, and Pineda became a 24-hour firestorm after a 14-5 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

"You don't have a choice," Derek Jeter said. "You play every single day. There's going to be things that happen throughout the course of the year. Yesterday was kind of odd. I don't think I've seen that since I've been here."

To draw conclusions after 22 games is silly. On the other hand, we're in the silly business.

The Yankees ran their record to 13-9 and spent a 12th consecutive day atop the American League East. They're 5-2 against the Red Sox, who are 10-13 and in last place. They made five errors on Thursday, their most in 13 years.

Still, they're the defending champs and the team always atop the Yankees' list.

"They're the team to beat, bottom line," Jeter said.

One way the Yankees moved on from Wednesday was to hand the ball to CC Sabathia.

Sabathia's a huge part of the puzzle for the Yankees as he attempts to reinvent himself with diminished velocity. He probably takes on added importance with Ivan Nova undergoing Tommy John surgery.

"We'll step up," Sabathia said. "We have the guys in here to step up and make pitches and hold the fort down."

Sabathia went to the mound knowing the Yankees needed him to get deep into the game after Girardi was forced to extend his bullpen in the wake of Pineda's ejection.

Sabathia did just that, allowing two earned runs in six innings. With the Yankees leading by 12-2, he left after 106 pitches.

He worked his new game nicely, feeding the Red Sox an assortment of sliders and changeups, along with some 88-mph fastballs in allowing two runs in six innings.

There's something else about these Yankees that's impressive. Despite a significant roster overall, including the addition of four big-ticket free agents -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran -- they've had a close, cohesive feel almost from Day 1.

Again, the Yankees got the right kind of guys. They added veterans who've won and who understand winning. Baseball's clubhouse chemistry and teamwork sometimes gets overlooked, but it's absolutely critical to success. Players are thrown together for six months, and if they don't believe in a common goal and in one another, things can go south during tough times.

These Yankees came together quickly in Spring Training. Girardi helps that process by the professional environment he demands, and general manager Brian Cashman got guys who understood that the bottom line was the team.

"It always looks that way when you're winning," Jeter said. "Know what I mean? Yeah, I think guys have fit in. We have a lot of guys who have been around for awhile. They know what they're capable of doing. They know what their job is. They know how to help teams win. For the most part, I think we're happy with how we've done. There's always room for improvement."

Girardi said Jeter helped the entire team building thing along with the attention he got in Spring Training. First, there was his announcement that this would be his final season. Second, there were legitimate questions about how much he had left in the tank.

As we focused on Jeter, Beltran, McCann, etc., we are allowed to fit into the clubhouse and get comfortable in their new setting.

"I think sometimes it helps when there's a number of [new players]," Girardi said. "If the focus is not on one guy. You think about 2009 when we brought in everyone, the focus was not really on one guy, and I think it's similar this year, and I think it helps a lot. And I think Derek helped it out in Spring Training, I really do. For the most part, it's been a pretty smooth transition."

Jeter reminded reporters that there's a long way to go and that there might be some more strange stuff happen. All the Yankees have done is get out of the starting gates. On Thursday, they did a little more than that. They changed the talking points.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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