Opening Day is closing in. There's a different feel to things now. Veterans are getting restless, ready for the regular season to begin. Many players -- kids, veterans, long shots -- are nervous about the final roster cuts.So with regulars playing longer, starting pitchers going deeper and clubhouses emptying out,
Opening Day is closing in. There's a different feel to things now. Veterans are getting restless, ready for the regular season to begin. Many players -- kids, veterans, long shots -- are nervous about the final roster cuts.
So with regulars playing longer, starting pitchers going deeper and clubhouses emptying out, let's take a moment to consider what's still left to be done.
Here are 10 burning questions 10 days before Opening Day:
1. WillShohei Ohtanimake the Angels' Opening Day roster?
That's the last question we thought we'd be asking at this point. Even if Ohtani struggled at the plate, there were pretty much zero questions about his pitching. It has been a rough spring on both fronts for the 23-year-old, and the Angels have to be wondering if a bit of time in the Minors would help his transition.
At the plate, Ohtani is 2-for-20 with seven strikeouts. On the mound, he has allowed nine runs (eight earned) in 2 2/3 innings. Historical note: At the end of Ichiro Suzuki's first spring with the Mariners, almost every scout on the planet predicted he was not ready for the big leagues. That season, he won the 2001 American League Most Valuable Player Award and the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
2. CanCarsten Sabathiaduplicate his 2017 season for the Yankees?
You have to dig really deep to find pressing questions about these Bronx Bombers. Can first-year manager Aaron Boone handle the most high-profile gig in the Majors? Sure he can. Boone is a smart guy comfortable in his own skin. Is Giancarlo Stanton ready for the bright lights?
But one of the keys to the 2018 Yankees is for Sabathia to repeat how he performed with a sort of career renaissance in 2017: 27 starts, 3.69 ERA, 1.27 WHIP. One of the reasons general manager Brian Cashman stayed away from big-ticket spending on pitching is his belief that at 37, Sabathia can still pitch at a high level.
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3. What can the Red Sox expect fromHanley Ramirez?
First-year manager Alex Cora plans to bat Ramirez third, right in front of J.D. Martinez, which says he's expecting something along the lines of the 2016 version of Ramirez -- 30 home runs, 28 doubles and an .866 OPS. That Ramirez could make the Red Sox's lineup scary good.
But if Ramirez has another season like 2017, when he was banged up and inconsistent, Cora will have to look at other options. Interesting twist: Ramirez needs 497 plate appearances for his $22 million option for 2019 to vest.
4. CanDerek Fisherbe the Astros' everyday left fielder?
Fisher is one of the prospects who GM Jeff Luhnow would not trade, and now he'll be given an opportunity to show that faith was well placed. In manager A.J. Hinch's perfect world, Fisher would play left, which would allow Marwin Gonzalez to move around the diamond in a super-utility role. Fisher, 24, has just 166 Major League plate appearances and is one of the few unknowns for the defending World Series champions.
5. Will Dodgers shortstopCorey Seager's elbow hold up?
We should be debating whether Matt Kemp will make the Dodgers and if he can have a great second act in Los Angeles. Problem is, Seager's sore right elbow is an increasingly large concern.
The Dodgers are a deep team built to withstand injuries. But playing for an extended period without one of baseball's top best players is a challenge they'd rather not face.
6. Who bats leadoff for the Cubs?
Manager Joe Maddon downplays the significance of this problem, and the Cubs scored the second-most runs in the National League last season, despite rotating 11 players into the spot without a lot of success. Best guess is that it'll again be a leadoff-man-by-committee role, unless someone -- Ian Happ? Kyle Schwarber? -- wins it outright.
7. When can Braves fans plan on seeing Ronald Acuna Jr. in the Majors?
Circle two dates on the calendar: April 13 is the first day Acuna can be brought up and still secure a seventh season of contractual control. For maximum splash, April 16 could be the day. That's when the Braves return to SunTrust Field to open a seven-game homestand against the Phillies and Mets. Bottom line: not much longer.
8. When will the Cardinals getAlex Reyesback, and what will his role be?
You may have noticed that the Cardinals didn't sign a top free-agent closer, and even with Greg Holland still on the market, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak seems confident about his internal options. That probably means Luke Gregerson will be the closer on Opening Day, but the more interesting question is how quickly the 23-year-old Reyes is back from Tommy John surgery.
The best guess for Reyes' return is early May, and while the Cards see him as a No. 1 starter down the line, they could ease him back with some bullpen work. To have that 97-mph stuff on the mound closing out games would give St. Louis a drastically different look.
9. Will Evan Longoriahave a bounce-back season with the Giants?
No team has more significant questions than the Giants, from Jeff Samardzija's tough spring to Hunter Pence's ability to stay healthy and still play at a high level. There are even questions about how much longer Bruce Bochy will want to manage if San Francisco doesn't turn things around.
But a good place to start is with one of the Giants' new cornerstones. At 32, Longoria is hoping to prove that last season's decline was a one-year blip and not the new norm. He's not the only thing that must go right for San Francisco to return to the postseason, but he's critically important.
10. WillTimothy Lincecumhave a great second act as a reliever for the Rangers?
Let's hope so. Lincecum's presence makes the entire sport more interesting. Besides that, the guy has busted his tail to reinvent himself and get back to the Majors at 33.
Whether Lincecum makes the Opening Day roster or not, the Rangers have seen enough to think "The Freak" has something left in the tank, especially in this new role.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.