The Yankees begin their quest for the elusive 27th championship today when Carl Pavano takes the hill against the Devil Rays.

That Pavano is the Opening Day choice shows you the weakness of this team, the starting pitching is very suspect. Chien-Ming Wang is hurt, though he should be back soon. Andy Pettitte has returned, but he has already had back issues. Mike Mussina is just older and the rest of the rotation is the missing man, Pavano and a soft-throwing pitcher from Japan, Kei Igawa.

Luckily, this team wasn’t built to win 2-1 games; it was built to pound teams into the ground. Damon and Jeter will set the table for Abreu, A-Rod, Giambi, Matsui, Posada and Cano. Doug Mientkiewicz won’t help offensively, but his glove should be an improvement at first.

The bullpen has also grown deeper with Luis Vizcaino, a workhorse, joining Farnsworth and Proctor in a setup role for Mariano Rivera. Rivera just seems to get better and has finally started throwing his changeup, which is bad news for hitters.

But the real difference between this year and past seasons is that there is actual talent in AAA. Phil Hughes should be pitching in the majors soon and he is just the start. The Yankees have a number of arms who could help fortify the rotation later this summer.

What does all of this add up to? October baseball is a definite, but how far they go will depend entirely on what happens to the rotation between now and then.

Photo of preparations for opening day at Yankee Stadium by AP/Jason DeCrow