Six teams will host their long-awaited home openers today as a full slate of 15 games marks the first weekend of the 2017 Major League season.In the National League, the Phillies host the Nationals, the Pirates welcome the Braves, the Rockies get a visit from the Dodgers and the Padres
Six teams will host their long-awaited home openers today as a full slate of 15 games marks the first weekend of the 2017 Major League season.
In the National League, the Phillies host the Nationals, the Pirates welcome the Braves, the Rockies get a visit from the Dodgers and the Padres host the Giants. There are two home openers in the American League, with the Tigers welcoming the Red Sox and the Angels hosting the Mariners. And all over the big leagues, there will be intriguing storylines.
For example, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer, and AL Rookie of the Year Award winner, Michael Fulmer, will both make their season debuts today. At Coors Field, we'll have the anticipated return from injury of Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, plus the Major League debut of Rockies left-hander and Denver native Kyle Freeland.
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Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times in ET):
Fulmer's sophomore year starts: BOS @ DET, 1:10 p.m. A lot was made of the immediate impact that young Fulmer had on the Detroit pitching staff last year, when he went 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA. This has been recognized by Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who proudly gave Fulmer this prestigious assignment in the Comerica Park lid-lifter.
"Home opener in Detroit is a big deal," Ausmus said. "You want to feel good about your chances of winning, and he's the guy who won the Rookie of the Year Award. He's earned it."
Meanwhile, a huge key to the resurgence of the Red Sox was knuckleballer Steven Wright, who posted a 13-6 record with a 3.33 ERA in 2016 and figures brightly in manager John Farrell's rotation plans for '17.
Max takes the mound: WAS @ PHI, 3:05 p.m. Any time Scherzer takes the hill, fans might see something special. The right-hander, who has won Cy Young Awards in both leagues, pitched two no-hitters in 2015 and struck out 20 batters in a game in '16.
"The more I've gotten away from each moment, I'm able to appreciate more the history of each accomplishment," Scherzer said recently. "The 20 strikeouts, it was so cool to be able to go out there and do that. I just remember that game just being locked in, filling up the zone, constantly being in 0-2 counts and executing pitches. That one, I'll always remember."
But this is the Phillies' home opener, and if they are to ascend the ranks of the NL East, they'll need more from the talented and young starter Vince Velasquez, who makes his 2017 debut after a promising '16 campaign that saw him go 8-6 with a 4.12 ERA.
Ryu returns as Freeland begins: LAD @ COL, 4:10 p.m. Dodgers fans have to be elated to see Ryu, who made only one start last year after missing all of 2015 with various injuries. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts liked what he saw in Spring Training enough to give Ryu a rotation spot.
"The velocity was good from the eyes," Roberts said. "He's shown us a lot. When we look back a year, where he's come from, he's done nothing but allow us to be very optimistic."
Optimistic is a great way to describe how Freeland must be feeling. The Rockies' sixth-ranked prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, grew up going to games at Coors Field and now makes his Major League debut there in the ballpark's home opener.
"I'm definitely going to soak in that first day," Freeland said. "But my goal is definitely to stick, have a long, fulfilling career and have a ton of success."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.