We had en eventful Opening Day in major league baseball yesterday, as there were injuries, blown saves, surprising changes at the closer position for several teams and lots of runs scored in Texas. Let's take a look at what happened on Opening Day.
Jose Reyes to the disabled list
Stop me if you've heard this before. Jose Reyes is headed to the disabled list with another hamstring injury, suffered in Monday's Opening Day game vs the Rays. Here is ESPN's Jayson Stark via Twitter:
Jose Reyes is headed back to the disabled list tomorrow with another hamstring injury sources say. http://t.co/Xa8NGHrbfz— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) April 1, 2014
Closer Changes - Santos, Lindstrom and K-Rod
We have't hit April yet and we already have some closer changes. One, you probably already knew. The Blue Jays placed Casey Janssen on the 15 day disabled list with an abdominal strain, and he could need more than the allotted 15 days to return to health. Sergio Santos will take over as the closer until Janssen is healthy.
Santos missed most of 2012 due to a shoulder injury. He pitched just 25.2 innings last season, but pitched well, striking out 28 and walking just 4, for a 31% strikeout rate. it wouldn't surprise me to see him keep the closer job once Janssen returns.
In a surprise move, manager Ron Roenicke went to Fernando Rodriguez to close out the Brewers 2-0 win over the Braves yesterday, instead of Jim Henderson. K-Rod gave up a single and struck out two in his inning of work. Roenicke stated after the game that K-Rod will be his closer for the time being, as he was not happy about Henderson's performance in spring training, as his velocity and command were down.
Finally, it was reported early yesterday that White Sox manager Robin Ventura has gone with Matt Lindstrom as his closer to open the season, with expected closer Nate Jones to serve as his set up man. Lidstrom got the call to preserve White Sox 5-3 lead vs the Twins, and shut the door, giving up a single while striking out one to earn the save. Lindstrom is an excellent ground ball pitcher, but struggles to strike out more than seven batters per nine innings. He kept the ball in the park last season, giving up just 0.30 home runs per nine innings in his 60.2 innings, and that is a good quality for a closer to own.
Diamondbacks new closer Addison Reed did not blow a save, but he took the loss as he gave up the game winning two out, two run home run to Buster Posey in the top of the ninth inning last night. Giants closer Sergio Romo gave up a home run of his own, to Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero, but still earned the save despite giving up two hits in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Billy Hamilton struggles on Opening Day
The much hyped Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton had a day to forget at the plate on Opening Day. Facing Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, Hamilton struck out in all four of his plate appearances on Monday. It is only one game, so there is not much to worry about with Hamilton as he was facing one of the best starting pitchers in the game. I just wonder if he will hit enough to remain in the leadoff position this season.
David Price back to the old David Price
It is no secret that Rays starter David Price was not the pitcher we expected last season, as his strikeout rate dropped and an injury limited him to 27 starts. Yesterday, he put all that behind him as he limited the solid Blue Jays lineup to two runs, on six hits, a walk and six strikeouts in 7.1 innings to earn the win. I expect Price to perform like the pre-2013 Price, with his strikeouts per nine in the 8.0-9.0 range.
I wrote a piece earlier this offseason proclaiming that Marlins ace Jose Fernandez could be the #1 starting pitcher in baseball this season, and that was before the injuries to Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish. Fernandez made that prediction look good in his Opening Day start last night, limiting the Rockies to one run on five hits, no walks and nine strikeouts in six innings of work in the Marlins 10-1 win. Fernandez was throwing strikes from the beginning of the game, finishing with 94 pitches, 73 of which went for strikes, and 17 of the swinging strike variety.
The lone run off of Fernandez was a majestic shot off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez, who ended his swing with a bit of a bat flip of his own, and appeared to watch it for a second or two before beginning his home run trot. Fernandez was smiling as Gonzalez was rounding the bases, but I am not sure if he was smiling having fun or if he was upset. Yes, I watched his start last night, can you tell? I own him in one of my NL keeper leagues, but you couldn't tell, right?
Charlie Blackmon gets the Opening Day start
The Rockies traded for outfielder Drew Stubbs this offseason, soon after trading center fielder Dexter Fowler to the Astros for two spare parts. After their performances in spring training, I assumed Stubbs would be platooning with Corey Dickerson in center field, but that was not the case, as manager Walt Weiss started Charlie Blackmon vs Jose Fernandez last night. Blackmon and Dickerson both hit left handed, and Dickerson had the better spring of the two, so it was a bit of a surprise to see Blackmon starting last night.
Here is Weiss' explanation as to why he started Blackmon over Dickerson, according to Thomas Harding from MLB.com:
Charlie Blackmon's performance last season when Rockies games still counted in the standings trumped his less-than-spectacular Spring Training numbers and earned him the Opening Night start in center field against the Marlins.
With manager Walt Weiss wanting to match a left-hander up against Marlins standout righty Jose Fernandez, he could have gone with Corey Dickerson, who hit .344 in Spring Training and led the team with 22 hits. But Blackmon performed well in regular playing time last season -- .309 in 82 games.
Blackmon hit .236 during the spring.
"Charlie's got more time out there than Corey does, and to be honest with you, Charlie may have been our best player the last month of [last] season," Weiss said. "He was the right guy to be out there."
I still see Dickerson getting some time in the outfield, but this situation bares watching, as it appears Weiss is favoring the better defender in center field, Blackmon, over Dickerson. The Rockies are carrying six outfielders at the moment, but that will change once they need more pitching, or a back up infielder/catcher on the roster. One of Dickerson, Blackmon or Brandon Barnes could be sent down to AAA when that need shows itself.
Cliff Lee struggles in Texas
The final score in Texas yesterday afternoon looked more like a football score than a baseball score. The Phillies beat the Rangers 14-10, as the Phillies jumped all over Rangers starter Tanner Scheppers in his first major league start. Scheppers gave up seven runs on eight hits and three walks in four innings of work. Phillies ace Cliff Lee was not much better, giving up eight runs on eleven hits, one walk and one strikeout in five innings of work, but pitched long enough to get the win. Not the performance fantasy owners expected from Lee. If you are in a league with owners who react to performances like this, by all means toss an offer or two his way, as Lee will be the ace we ranked in our top five in our consensus starting pitcher rankings earlier this offseason.
The offensive stars in this game were Rangers outfielder Alex Rios who went 3-5 with a home run, 3 runs and 3 RBI. Third baseman Adrian Beltre chipped in going 2-4 with a walk and three runs scored. Before the game, manager Ron Washington announced that catcher J.P. Arencibia would see the bulk of the starts with Geovany Soto sidelined for three months. Grab him if you need some power from the catcher spot on your roster.
For the Phillies, leadoff hitter Ben Revere and third baseman Cody Asche were the offensive stars, both contributing three hits. Revere went 3-6 with a stolen base, two runs scored and three RBI, while Asche went 3-4 with a walk home runs, 4 runs scored and two RBI.
Wilson Ramos injured again
Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos can't catch a break. Last season he missed time recovering from knee surgery, and yesterday, he left the game due to a hand injury. It was initially reported that he broke a bone in his left hand, but that report proved to be inaccurate. X-rays on his hand after the game came back negative, but he will see a hand specialist today.
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