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Opening Day 2019: New, fun, random things in store this season

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Opening Day is Thursday, so today we’re previewing. In addition to the stuff, like this, we’ll be posting this morning, be sure to join us for a 2019 season preview on the MyTeams App at 2PM Eastern Time.

We’ve posted our National League Preview and American League Preview. And, though they’ll almost certainly be wrong, here are our predictions for 2019. Now let’s look at some of the new, random and fun things in store for the 2019 season.

The New Faces

If you only follow your team closely and if your team is returning Casey O’RetiredCatcher as manager for the 19th straight season, you may not be aware of the new faces in dugouts across the league. There are six new skippers in the bigs this year: David Bell with the Reds, Chris Woodward with the Rangers, Charlie Montoyo with the Blue Jays, Brad Ausmus with the Angels, Rocco Baldelli with the Twins and Brandon Hyde with the Orioles.

There are also several new general managers/president of baseball operations guys, though you’ve had a better chance to get to know them during the hot stove season:Brodie Van Wagenen with the Mets, Farhan Zaidi with the Giants, and Mike Elias with the Orioles.


The New Looks

Only two teams have made wholesale changes to their standard uniform. The Indians, you know well by now, have removed Chief Wahoo from their caps and sleeves, with a Block-C appearing on all caps now. Otherwise they look more or less the same. The Marlins have undergone a complete renovation:

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There will, obviously, be a lot of random alternates and things. And the Reds will be doing throwbacks all season long. Some of them are pretty wild.


The Stadiums

This will be the Texas Rangers’ final season at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Next year they will be moving to Globe Life Field, just next door. The “old” park opened way, way, way back in 1994, so I hope its decrepit and crumbling walls and antiquated electrical and plumbing systems don’t injure someone before the season is out.

Two parks are getting new names: the stadium of the Seattle Mariners — formerly Safeco Field — is now T-Mobile Park. The home field of the San Francisco Giants will get its fourth name since opening in 2000: Oracle Park.


The Schedule

Given that we — and Major League Baseball for that matter — tend to see the early regular season games which occur in Japan or Australia or other international locations as special cases, Thursday is truly Opening Day. Let the record reflect that March 28 is the earliest Opening Day in Major League Baseball history. It beats last year’s previous record by one day.

Those two games between the A’s and Mariners last week are not the only international games this year. There will be two series in Mexico: the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds will play in Monterrey, Mexico on April 13 and 14. The Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Angels will play in Monterrey on May 4 and 5. There will also be the first ever regular season games played in the United Kingdom, with the Boston Red Sox “hosting” the New York Yankees at London Stadium on June 29 and 30.

There will likewise be a couple of domestic games played in non-traditional settings: the Kansas City Royals will face the Detroit Tigers at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska on June 13, two days before the College World Series. On August 18 the MLB Little League Classic will be held at at BB&T Ballpark in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, coinciding with the Little League World Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs will meet in this, the third installment of the Classic.


The Milestones

No monumentally historic career records or milestones seem to be within striking distance for anyone in 2019, but here are some round and/or divisible-by-five numbers that will get a shoutout when they happen:

  • Robinson Cano is 30 hits away from 2500, With 44 hits Cano will move into the Top 100 all-time;
  • Ian Kinsler is 57 hits away from 2000;
  • Albert Pujols could really move up on the all-time hits list. He’s currently at 24th all-time, and will pass people in front of him with his 8th, 29th, 34th, 60th, 61st, 71st, 73rd, 85th, and 103rd hits of the season, moving him all the way up to 15th place.
  • Miguel Cabrera is 35 homers away from 500;
  • Edwin Encarnacion is 20 dingers away from 400. Nelson Cruz is 40 away.
  • Mark Reynolds (6), Jay Bruce (14), Justin Upton (14), Chris Davis (17), Matt Kemp (20), Evan Longoria (23) and Joey Votto (31) could all get to 300 homers;
  • Albert Pujols can pass Willie Mays for 5th on the all-time on the home run list if he hits 28.
  • Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton and Joey Votto are almost all assured of getting to 1,000 career runs scored this year. Matt Kemp needs 72 to get there. It’s unclear if he’ll play enough to do so;
  • Pujols is 18 RBI away from 2000 in his career. When he gets there he’ll move into 5th all-time;
  • Ryan Zimmerman (12), Jose Bautista (25), Brian McCann (27), Nick Markakis (31), and Evan Longoria (54) could all reach 1000 career RBI in 2019;
  • CC Sabathia is four wins away from 250 career wins;
  • Bartolo Colon is three wins away from 250 career wins, but he’s unemployed and it’s not clear if anyone will give him a chance to pitch again;
  • Zack Greinke is 13 wins away from 200;
  • CC Sabathia is 14 Ks away from 3,000 career strikeouts;
  • Justin Verlander is 294 away from 3,000. A longshot — last year was his career high with 290 — but he’ll get close;
  • Ervin Santana (79), David Price (147), and Chris Sale (211) are within reach of 2000 career strikeouts;
  • Kenley Jansen is 32 saves away from 300; and
  • Craig Kimbrel, currently 14th — can move into 8th all-time on the career saves list, passing people when if/when he gets to 9, 15, 26, 35, 36, and 45 saves this season. Of course he’ll need a job to do that and he’s currently unemployed.

May the odds be ever in your favor, fellas.


The Farewell Tours

We already bid Ichiro Suzuki adieu following his two-game appearance in the Japan Series last week. We already know that this year will be the final season for two other greats as well: Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia announced last November that he will retire at the end of the season. In February Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced he will retire at the end of the season as well.


The Retirement Parties

Two numbers will be retired this season. On June 8, Adrian Beltre will have his #29 retired by the Texas Rangers. On June 15 Joe Mauer will have his #7 retired by the Minnesota Twins.

And, of course, a whole lotta stuff we can in no way predict will happen will, in fact, happen in 2019. That much you can bet on.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.