Here are our predictions for 10 unusual but important firsts of the 2016 MLB season
Opening Day of the 2016 season is just around the corner, which means it's time for every baseball fan on the planet to gaze into his or her crystal ball and throw a litany of predictions against the wall to see what sticks.
In an effort to fulfill our civic duty, here are 10 unusual predictions -- officially on the record -- to chew on as you frantically search for a plausible reason to call out of work on Monday.
The first position player to pitch will be: David Ross
First of all, let's point out that when your team is expected to win 95 games, it stands to reason that you can afford to have a little more fun on the rare occasions when you're losing big. Also, the guy can pitch: Ross has a fastball that tops out in the mid-80s, and last season, he pitched a 1-2-3 frame for the Cubs when they were trailing the Brewers in early May.
Early May is only six weeks away, so count on Joe Maddon throwing Grandpa Rossy out on the hill sooner rather than later.
The first pitcher to hit a home run will be: Madison Bumgarner
The man's the active career leader for home runs among pitchers who play for NL teams (Yovani Gallardo has 12 career homers to MadBum's 11, but plays in the AL and has been in MLB for two more seasons). Plus, two of MadBum's 11 career homers have come against the Brewers, whom he'll face on Opening Day. And, assuming normal rest, his third start will take place against the Rockies ... at Coors Field. The remaining three of his first five starts are slated to take place at AT&T Park, where Bumgarner has mashed seven dingers in his last 34 regular-season games.
The first live animal to delay a regular-season game will be: A squirrel
Some of the birds might not have even migrated back north yet. Raccoons and possums are usually more problematic during night games, and the MLB schedule is front-loaded with matinees. Squirrels tend to be a broader issue than some of the more regional animal interruptions. Smart money's on the squirrel.
The first player trolled by Orbit will be: Salvador Perez
There are few guys in Major League Baseball having more fun out there than Salvy Perez, who's never shied away from taking part in a good bit or a healthy Gatorade shower. Add that to the fact that Orbit's already built a rapport with Perez and that the Astros host the Royals for their first series at Minute Maid Park this season, and this prediction is the lock of the century.
The first team to surrender a hit to Bartolo Colon will be: The Brewers
The Mets play seven games against the Brewers before mid-June, Colon has a higher average against the Brewers than he does any other NL team (.273!) and the Brew Crew added starting pitcher Chase Anderson to the mix this offseason, one of only nine active pitchers who have surrendered a hit to Colon in the past.
The first opposing player to successfully touch Adrian Beltre's head this year will be: Robinson Cano
The Rangers and Mariners will face off six times in the first two weeks of the season, so it's inevitable that Beltre will be on second with Cano in the field, or Cano will reach third while Beltre is manning the hot corner. Either way, Cano will have plenty of chances to sneak in a good noogie before we make it halfway through April.
Chris Young the outfielder will hit a home run before Chris Young the pitcher earns a win
Red Sox outfielder Chris Young is absolutely raking right now. He belted his fourth homer of Spring Training on Monday, so he should get his at-bats even while working within the crowded Red Sox outfield. His name-counterpart has a spot in the Royals' rotation, but he'll only get a shot at that win once every five games.
The first player to hit for the cycle this season will be: Mike Trout
You probably had the same guess, but it's worth reiterating
The first gift of the David Ortiz farewell tour will be: A guitar
Big Papi's musical career seems to be progressing just fine, thank you, as is evidenced by his string of music videos co-starring fellow New England demigod Rob Gronkowski. But that doesn't mean that the big fella couldn't benefit from a new guitar, and who better to give him one than the Cleveland Indians, who play their home games right next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Papi has 23 career dingers against the Tribe, which will be the first team to host Ortiz for the last time (in the regular-season schedule, at least) when the Sox start the season with a three-game series in Cleveland.
The season's first inside-the-park home run will be hit by: Mookie Betts
Sure, Betts has never hit an inside-the-parker while playing for keeps (he did hit one at Spring Training last season), but The Triangle at Fenway Park seems like the perfect place for him to poke a fly ball for an awkward carom. Plus, the man is built to run: He hit eight triples and stole 21 bases last season to go with 18 homers. It's only a matter of time before one of those triples turns into a round-tripper thanks to the right bounce.