Opening Day FAQ: Blue Jays vs. Cardinals
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals and Blue Jays -- National League and American League playoff teams, respectively, from last fall -- will square off Thursday in the opening series at sold-out Busch Stadium.
For the first time in the rich history of the Cardinals, they will be hosting an AL team in St. Louis for Opening Day. The Cardinals were slated to have their 2020 home opener against Baltimore, but that series was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This season, all 30 MLB teams will face one another at least once. NL and AL squads will face off 46 times -- four games against a team’s designated rival along with 21 home games and 21 road games against foes from the opposite league.
To accommodate that increase, teams will face division rivals just 13 times each -- down from the 19 times they played each other last season.
This Opening Day will feature Cardinals top prospect Jordan Walker, who made the 26-man roster after smashing three home runs and five doubles in Spring Training. Also, new catcher Willson Contreras, who was lured away from the rival Cubs with a five-year, $87.5 million free-agent deal, is planning to use his first Opening Day as a Cardinal to honor retired catcher Yadier Molina. It will not feature 41-year-old Adam Wainwright, who missed out on his seventh Opening Day start because of a groin injury suffered last week while working out with Team USA.
For the Jays, new left fielder Daulton Varsho makes his Toronto debut and figures to slot into the No. 6 hole of what figures to be a potent lineup.
Walker, all 6-foot-5 of him, will likely be in the box against 6-foot-6, 285-pound Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah. It should be one of many titanic matchups between two teams that have designs on being back in the playoffs come fall.
Here are more key factors to look for in Thursday’s Opening Day:
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Blue Jays: In Canada, this game will be aired by Sportsnet with the radio call available on Sportsnet 590 THE FAN, which is available on the Sportsnet app and online.
Cardinals: First pitch is at approximately 3:10 p.m. CT from Busch Stadium and live on MLB.TV. Bally Sports Midwest will air the action on TV, while KMOX and WIJR will have the game on radio.
What are the lineups?
- George Springer, RF
- Bo Bichette, SS
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
- Daulton Varsho, LF
- Alejandro Kirk, C
- Brandon Belt, DH
- Matt Chapman, 3B
- Whit Merrifield, 2B
- Kevin Kiermaier, CF
- Brendan Donovan, 2B
- Lars Nootbaar, LF
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
- Nolan Arenado, 3B
- Willson Contreras, C
- Tyler O’Neill, CF
- Nolan Gorman, DH
- Jordan Walker, RF
- Tommy Edman, SS
Who are the starting pitchers?
Blue Jays: RHP Alek Manoah
Manoah is coming off a third-place finish in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2022, finishing with a 2.24 ERA over 196 2/3 innings. Kevin Gausman was right in the conversation, but he will follow Manoah in Game 2 of the series, giving the Blue Jays one of the better one-two punches in the American League.
Cardinals: RHP Miles Mikolas
Mikolas had about as good a day as a pitcher could have Friday. Mikolas signed a two-year contract extension and was named the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter. Later that night, Mikolas threw seven innings of one-run, six-hit ball with two strikeouts. He was just 12-13 last season, but that was a bit deceiving as he had a 3.29 ERA. Mikolas is hoping for better results from his second Opening Day start as he was shelled for five runs and three homers in Milwaukee in 2019.
How might the bullpens line up after the starter?
Blue Jays: Toronto’s bullpen added depth in the offseason, but more importantly, it added upside. This started with Erik Swanson, who was acquired from the Mariners in the Teoscar Hernández trade, and he should slide in as the Blue Jays’ setup man. Yimi Garcia will be trusted in leverage situations as a movable piece for manager John Schneider with Tim Mayza being the top lefty available, but it’s still Jordan Romano in the ninth. The Canadian closer is coming off a 2.11 ERA with 36 saves last season, striking out 73 batters in 64 innings.
Cardinals: Ryan Helsley is coming off a career year where he was an All-Star and an All-MLB second-team pick. He is hoping to be available more often this season and might be able to pitch on back-to-back days more often. Reliever Jordan Hicks proved himself ready for the regular season Saturday when he hit 104.6 mph and threw 10 pitches of at least 102 mph. Lefty Zack Thompson and righty Andre Pallante had great camps and will likely be used to get the ball to Helsley at the end.
Any injuries of note?
Blue Jays: The Blue Jays had a quiet camp, which is good news. The only scare was a minor knee injury to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in early March, which kept him out of the World Baseball Classic, but he’s at 100%, and the Blue Jays enter the season as a very healthy organization.
Cardinals: Wainwright, who announced in the fall that the 2023 season will be his final MLB season, is out because of the groin injury suffered last week in the weight room, while working out for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
Who’s hot and who’s not?
Blue Jays: Bo Bichette had an excellent camp, producing well in the Grapefruit League while earning widespread praise from his teammates and the Blue Jays’ coaching staff. He salvaged a slow 2022 season with a scorching September that he appears to be carrying right into ’23. Newcomer Varsho’s numbers in Spring Training left something to be desired, but the talented 26-year-old was working to find a comfortable spot with some new swing mechanics and liked how he felt coming out of camp, leaving the Blue Jays optimistic.
Cardinals: An MVP finalist last season, Nolan Arenado looks like he could make a strong run at the award this season after a spring where he hit .524 with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs. He also hit .385 with five RBIs for Team USA in the Classic. Youngsters Nolan Gorman (four homers and 13 RBIs), Brendan Donovan (also four home runs) and Walker (470, 450 and 430-foot home runs) had breakout camps while 17 Cardinals were off playing in the Classic. Tommy Edman (4-for-21, .190) struggled again in this camp, but he did something similar last spring and still had a solid 2022 season.
Anything else fans might want to know?
Blue Jays: Toronto’s lineup will rarely be the same from game to game. The exceptional catching tandem of Kirk and Danny Jansen leads to a natural timeshare, while Cavan Biggio is expected to move around the diamond and 2022 All-Star Santiago Espinal needs some playing time, especially against left-handed pitching. It’s a deep group that’s eager to run, too, so you can expect to see the Blue Jays crank up the aggression from day one.
Cardinals: As is custom in St. Louis, Opening Day will be filled with plenty of pomp and circumstance. A whopping 13 members of the team’s Hall of Fame -- including National Baseball Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog, Ted Simmons and Scott Rolen -- are scheduled to attend. The Budweiser Clydesdales are also scheduled to attend and will take a lap around the field.