With all apologies to the Athletics and Mariners, baseball is now really back, thanks to a game being played in this hemisphere, at an hour we could all see it and on actual television. The Cardinals beat the Marlins 4-1.
Our hemisphere, yes, but it often felt like a different universe. One in which lime green is an acceptable color for an outfield wall. Where players came in accompanied by Brazilian dancers. One in which Kyle Lohse of all people not only gets an Opening Night start, but handcuffs the new-look Marlins, not allowing a hit until the seventh inning. He ended the night tossing seven and a third innings of two-hit ball, with the Marlins only scoring when Fernando Salas allowed an inherited runner to score on a John Buck double.
As for the Cardinals, they struck early, two scoring on a David Freese single in the first, a third on a Rafael Furcal single in the second and an insurance run on a fielder’s choice in the eighth.
But the results of the game are less important and created less of an impression than this ballpark did. It’s loud in color, but thanks to the near no-no, it wasn’t too loud in voice. That outfield seems really, really big to me. Poor John Jay and Emilio Bonafacio seemed like they were running for miles at times.
Maybe the most important thing is that the home run sculpture/monstrosity didn’t go off, and thank goodness for that. The 7pm start meant that a lot of children could have been watching. Hopefully their parents covered their eyes when Muhammad Ali came out to “throw out” the first pitch. That was painful to watch given his condition and, with all respect to The Champ, I wonder who thought that was the best idea for Opening Night.
Anyway, baseball’s back folks. And today was the last day until the All-Star break when only one game is being played. Hallelujah.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.