Eno Sarris

Baseball Daily Dose

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Recapping Opening Day

Friday, April 01, 2011

A paltry five games on 'Opening Day' means that it extends into the weekend. Maybe that was the plan, eh? That's okay, we've been waiting so long, we've been so parched for baseball, it's fine. We can keep that 'brand new' feeling going for at least another day. This baseball is quenching a long-pressing thirst.

Another Opening Day for the season means another Opening Day Daily Dose. We'll recap the day's news here, just in case you missed it on our player news wire. Drink us with your cup of coffee, unless that sounds kinda dirty. If it does, well, the deed is done. We apologize. Keep looking in this space for more daily doses, live chats, closer updates, stolen base sleepers, waiver wire pickups, two-start pitchers, and weekly recaps. Lots to drink in! (Sorry.)

* Exceptional performances marked Opening Day. Clayton Kershaw versus Tim Lincecum was all that it was billed to be, with neither pitcher allowing a run. The two combined for 14 strikeouts against four walks, and only nine hits in their 14 innings. Kershaw was the one putting on a clinic, but if Lincecum's defense hadn't let him down, they might still be playing in Chavez Ravine. For the second year in a row, Jason Heyward homered in his first at-bat of the season. Last year, it was a low pitch, this year it was a high changeup, but the result was just as powerful. If Heyward continues to be as excellent as talent evaluators believe he can be, the Braves are a dark horse for October success.

* Exceptionally bad performances also came to the fore. Edinson Volquez surrendered five runs over six innings Thursday in a no-decision against the Brewers. It was the back-to-back homers to start the game, and the four runs allowed in the first two innings, that seemed to suggest it wasn't his day, but he recovered to pitch seven flawed innings. In Kansas City, Alex Gordon rode his nice spring into an oh-fer with three strikeouts in the opener. Miguel Tejada blew a huge throw, went oh-for-four at the plate, and generally looked 'chunky' in the field. We'll see how he and Burrell affect the pitchers this year.

* Blown saves are not all created equally. There's the trickle that could turn into a stream that is Ryan Franklin's blown attempt against the Padres, and then there's John Axford's collapsed dam of a breakdown against the Reds. We already knew that Franklin wasn't the best closer because he's a nothing in the strikeouts category, but if he starts having trouble with the home run like he did earlier in his career, he can lose his job like any other closer. Jason Motte is the gas-throwing strikeout artist behind him if you want a handcuff. Axford, on the other hand, usually has a control problem, but only walked one man while blowing the game Thursday night. His defense let him down a couple times, and then Ramon Hernandez won the game with a shot. There's a chance that veteran Takashi Saito takes the job, but expect the 'crew to give the mustachioed one a little more leash.

* Some surprise starts were announced. Julio Borbon will begin the year in the Rangers' center field, perhaps in order to save Josh Hamilton from injuring himself. Since Jason Bay (ribs) is out for a couple weeks, Willie Harris will start the season in the Met outfield, perhaps to save Lucas Duda from his own (lack of) glove. Mike Cameron will start in right on Opening Day for the Red Sox, but that's because a lefty is on the mound for the Rangers. Is Justin Morneau starting the season a surprise? Maybe, but at least everyone's confident he's healthy. Darwin Barney, despite a lack of power or speed, will be the Cubs second baseman because Blake DeWitt stunk up the joint in spring training. Craig Kimbrel, despite being in a platoon with Jonny Venters, faced the ninth with two lefties in the lineup. Most likely, he will more than double the save opportunities that Venters gets, if only because of the law of numbers. There are more right-handers in the world! And, in a bizarre surprise, Barry Zito will make his Sunday start despite being in a car accident Wednesday night.

National League Quick Hits: Brandon Belt started with a bang; a single in the first at-bat and a walk later showed that he won't be overmatched at the plate this year … Pat Burrell drove in the only Giants run of the game but was terrible on defense and could easily lose playing time once Cody Ross (calf) returns in two weeks … Giant Brian Wilson (oblique) threw hard with no discomfort and will probably be back next week, but it's Sergio Romo closing for now … Kyle Blanks (Tommy John) is on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 22nd, and is playing first base in his rehab; the powerful dude might be useful in deeper leagues eventually … The Diamondbacks' "prize" acquisition Zach Duke (hand) will be out until May … Cameron Maybin (cramps) left the game early, but he also hit a home run and could be a deep league speed sleeper this year … Tim Stauffer was hittable (nine hits) but showed good control (one walk) and kept his team in the game - he's a decent end-of-staff pitcher … Fellow Padre Mat Latos (shoulder) threw off the mound and looked healthy … Casey Blake (back) is on the DL, but backdated, if you're looking for a mediocre, 37-year-old third baseman … Rickie Weeks hit a home run and a double after a hot spring, and health is the only question.

American League Quick Hits: Ron Gardenhire says that Matt Capps and Joe Nathan are sharing the closer role, but Nathan's talent will win out in the end … Octavio Dotel (hamstring) had his DL stint backdated, as did Frank Francisco (pectoral), so Jon Rauch is getting the save chances in the meantime … Ditto Brandon Morrow (forearm) … Fernando Rodney didn't blow the save, but he did make it interesting - he's one of the worst pitchers in the closer role in baseball, and make sure to handcuff him with Jordan Walden and maybe even Scott DownsKendrys Morales (foot) is taking grounders but might be out another three weeks … Travis Buck made the Indians after a hot spring, but is a reserve outfield at best … Ryan Langerhans made the Mariners but probably just while Franklin Gutierrez (stomach) is out … Teammate David Aardsma (hip) threw a bullpen session and looked good, but has no timetable … The Yankees placed Francisco Cervelli (foot) on the DL, and he should be back by the beginning of May … Mitch Moreland is missing the opener against Jon Lester and might miss more starts against lefties in the future … The news got bad quick for Trevor Crowe (shoulder) who is now out four months after surgery … Wade Davis signed a four-to-seven-year deal, and still has some nice potential … Lastings Milledge made the White Sox as their fourth or fifth outfielder.

Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
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