SAN DIEGO -- There’s a lot that has changed about the Padres over the past three seasons, but one thing hasn't: the pitcher they're facing on Opening Day.
For the third year in a row, Madison Bumgarner will toe the rubber at Petco Park for the season opener -- his second consecutive Opening Day start in San Diego in a D-backs uniform.
Opposite Bumgarner is Yu Darvish, making his first regular-season appearance with the Padres. Darvish, of course, is symbolic of San Diego's offseason overhaul, in which general manager A.J. Preller landed droves of talent via trades and free agency -- specifically in the starting rotation.
“I’m really looking forward to calling this place my home,” Darvish said upon his arrival at Petco Park on Wednesday -- and the city of San Diego has already welcomed him with open arms.
Coming off a second-place finish and their first trip to the playoffs in 14 years, the Padres will open their season looking to close the gap on the Dodgers atop the National League West. The D-backs, meanwhile, will be looking to close the gap on the Padres and make a playoff push themselves.
Here's everything you need to know about the opener Thursday:
When is the game, and how can I watch it?
First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. PT on Thursday. The game will be broadcast on Bally Sports Arizona and Bally Sports San Diego. Out-of-market fans can watch on MLB.TV.
The starting lineups
D-backs: Manager Torey Lovullo likes to keep his Opening Day lineup under wraps, so this is simply a projection of what it could look like. One certain thing is that the D-backs will be without right fielder Kole Calhoun, who is opening the year on the injured list following knee surgery.
Padres: With Trent Grisham slated to open the season on the IL, the Padres are without their primary 2020 table-setter. But after a torrid finish to Spring Training, it's possible Tommy Pham slides into the top spot in the order, especially against the lefty Bumgarner. If Pham occupies center field in Grisham's place, it's fair to wonder who plays left. Jurickson Profar has struggled at the plate all spring, but he still seems like the likeliest candidate. Here's a projection:
Who are the starting pitchers?
D-backs: Bumgarner will be making his seventh career Opening Day start and his second since he joined the D-backs in December 2019, when he signed a five-year, $85 million contract. The left-hander struggled mightily last year, as his fastball velocity sunk to career lows while his ERA rose to 6.48 in nine starts. Bumgarner said if he had to do things over again he would have thrown more during the pandemic shutdown, and the organization believes that the ramp-up, shutdown and then quick ramp-up for the season was the issue. There was reason for optimism, as he threw the ball well this spring and his velocity, while still down a bit, was not as low as it was last year.
Padres: It's the second career Opening Day nod of Darvish's career -- and perhaps the first time the Padres can claim they're giving the ball to a true ace for the opener since Jake Peavy more than a decade ago. Darvish is coming off a second-place finish in National League Cy Young Award voting last season. He posted a 2.01 ERA and led the National League with a 2.23 FIP. Said Darvish, a nine-year veteran: "Just looking back at my whole career, I think I'm at my best right now."
How will the bullpens line up?
D-backs: In the past, Lovullo has liked to go with a designated closer, but this year he wants to try something different. He believes he can best maximize his relievers by playing matchups late in the game. Look for Joakim Soria, Stefan Crichton and Chris Devenski to close out games. Devenski had an outstanding spring, winning a job in the bullpen as a non-roster invitee. Taylor Clarke, who lost out to Taylor Widener for a rotation spot, pitched well this spring and will be the long man to open the season. The D-backs are carrying just one left-hander in the bullpen to start the year, Alex Young.
Padres: The Padres have yet to divulge their closer, but they have four pitchers who have handled that role in the past -- lefty Drew Pomeranz and righties Emilio Pagán, Mark Melancon and Keone Kela. That quartet, in some order, will handle the late innings. If Darvish runs into any trouble early, veteran Craig Stammen and rookie Ryan Weathers are on hand to cover the middle innings.
Any injuries of note?
D-backs: Injuries have been an unfortunate storyline throughout camp for the D-backs. It started with Calhoun requiring surgery on his right knee and continued with uber-reliable reliever Tyler Clippard being shut down for six weeks with a sprained shoulder capsule. Arizona’s best starter, Zac Gallen, suffered a hairline fracture in his right forearm, and he will join Calhoun and Clippard in starting the season on the injured list. Ahmed battled patellar tendinitis in his right knee throughout camp, but he is expected to be the Opening Day shortstop.
Padres: The Padres remain hopeful their injuries won’t linger for very long, but they have quite a few of them. Grisham (left hamstring strain) and catcher Austin Nola (fractured left middle finger) were projected starters. They will open the season on the IL. Joining them there from the bullpen are Austin Adams (right elbow), Pierce Johnson (groin strain), Dan Altavilla (calf strain), Matt Strahm (right knee surgery) and Javy Guerra (right UCL sprain).
Who is hot and who is not?
D-backs: Walker has swung a hot bat for the D-backs all spring, showing tremendous power after making some small tweaks mechanically this winter. Rojas changed his diet, sleep and workout routines this winter and had such a good spring that he is likely to get the bulk of playing time at second base to open the season. Pavin Smith, who should see time in right field against right-handers while Calhoun is on the mend, also finished the spring on a good note.
Padres: Tatis missed time with an assortment of minor ailments this spring. But when he played, he looked like the version that the Padres envisioned when they signed him to a record-setting contract last month. Tatis had a .375/.444/.719 slash line across 14 games. Pham and Myers also finished the spring red hot. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Profar and Ha-Seong Kim were ice cold for most of the Cactus League, though the two utility men showed some encouraging signs down the stretch.
Anything else fans might want to know?
• Tatis has faced Bumgarner in each of his two prior Opening Days. In 2019, he recorded the first hit of his career against Bumgarner -- then added a second single for good measure. Tatis doubled against Bumgarner on Opening Day in '20.
• Don't be surprised to see the D-backs’ starting lineup change throughout the series. Like with the bullpen, Lovullo wants to exploit matchups where he can with his starting lineup, and he has the personnel to do so with a number of players able to play multiple positions. The Padres, meanwhile, seem unlikely to make any major lineup alterations in the early stages of the season, with Grisham and Nola on the shelf.
• Outfielder Tim Locastro has a knack for reaching base, and once on base, his speed can be fun to watch. He is the fastest player in baseball, per Statcast’s sprint speed metric, and he has yet to be thrown out in 26 stolen-base attempts at the Major League level. The Padres, meanwhile, struggled to contain the run game all spring.
• Even if Nola were healthy, it seems likely Caratini would have gotten the start behind the plate. Caratini became Darvish's personal catcher with the Cubs last season, and the two were dealt to the Padres in the same December trade. Darvish has a career 2.80 ERA in 31 games with Caratini behind the plate.