The buses were loading for the 23-mile trip to Dunedin and a game against the Blue Jays when CC Sabathia took the Steinbrenner Field main mound for what was truly the main event in the Yankees’ world yesterday.

The game was simulated, but not the importance.

Sabathia is probably the most indispensable Yankee — more than ever now because this team is going to rely on pitching in a greater fashion than perhaps any of its last 20 predecessors.

In the recent past, the Yankees could count on their offense to do a fair amount of bludgeoning, especially at home, to inflate their win-loss record. But that strategy is gone for at least April while Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira convalesce, and perhaps all season due to the irreversible impact of injuries and offseason defections.

The loss of offense, combined with the roster’s advancing age and the belief the AL East is going to play stronger from top to bottom than at any time in history has created a sense these Yankees might not even contend this year. Except the general manager of the flavor-of-the-month team in the AL East doesn’t believe it.

“A few things about the Yankees,” said Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos. “People want to count them out because of the injuries. Last year, Mariano Rivera, A-Rod, Joba [Chamberlain], [Brett] Gardner and [Andy] Pettitte were out for extended periods and they still won 95 games.