What a weekend. For all the talk about how the pitch timer would affect MLB’s Opening Weekend -- and it certainly did, in ways that seem universally positive -- the real story of the first four days of baseball was just how terrific the games themselves were. Riveting, joyous, stressful, surprising -- baseball itself has already been pretty mind-blowing. Didn’t you miss it?
Every team learned something about itself too, even if the season has literally just begun. There have been surprises, breakouts and incredible debuts. Here are some way-too-early, completely rash, nevertheless compelling takeaways for every team so far.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: The rotation looks shaky … for now.
The Blue Jays knew they had a great offense, so they were willing to sacrifice a little of it to improve their defense -- and their run prevention in general -- and ride a potentially strong rotation. But their top three starters, two of whom earned Cy Young votes last year and one of whom was their big free-agent acquisition, all got shelled. Alek Manoah gave up five runs in 3 1/3 innings, and Kevin Gausman was comparatively decent with three runs allowed in six frames (in a game Toronto still lost). Chris Bassitt struggled the most, allowing nine runs in 3 1/3 innings. The Blue Jays will be able to hit. But they’re going to have to hit a lot if those guys are going to pitch like that.
Orioles: The pitching skepticism seems justified.
Sure, the Orioles absolutely should have won two out of three this weekend. That error in the ninth on Saturday -- and subsequent walk-off homer from Adam Duvall -- will gnaw at them all year if they finish a game out of the playoffs. But at least the runs off Duvall’s homer were unearned. Baltimore posted an 8.42 ERA over its first three games, giving up 36 hits in that span. O’s top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez probably can’t get here fast enough.
Rays: Yeah, you were right to be high on Jeffrey Springs.
The spring buzz on Springs was deafening, and it sure looks smart right now: There might have been no better pitching performance all weekend than Springs’ six no-hit innings against the Tigers on Sunday (with 12 strikeouts). All the Rays took advantage of the hapless Tigers, but no one did so more than Springs.
Red Sox: Uh oh, Chris Sale.
The Red Sox won two out of three this weekend, and they should definitely feel great about that. But this team isn’t going anywhere if Sale doesn’t at least resemble his previous self, and his first April start at Fenway Park in four years was, in his words, “embarrassing.” Few pitchers will be watched more in their next start than him.
Yankees: Anthony Volpe isn’t going anywhere.
As exciting as it was to see both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton launch two homers apiece, the story of the weekend was Volpe, who sure looks like he’s going to be the shortstop for the Yankees for a long, long time. The fans love him, he’s made history on the basepaths, and his defense looks like it’ll play, but the most exciting thing about Volpe is how immediately comfortable he looked. He may have been born for this.
Guardians: Yep, they look like the old Guardians.
The Guardians hit a few more homers than you might have expected them to -- including one from Mike Zunino, doing exactly what he was brought in to do -- but Cleveland is still a team that relies on solid starting pitching, timely hitting and a stacked bullpen to win. When the Guardians get that, they win. When they don’t, they don’t.
Royals: The pitching looks better. But that’s not the problem.
The Royals made a big deal all offseason about how they were going to address the pitching woes that have plagued them for many years now. And that pitching has improved: A 3.33 ERA through their first three games, albeit with more walks than they’d like. But the Royals didn’t hit a lick, putting up a .133 batting average and thus, not surprisingly, getting swept.
Tigers: The rebuild is still going.
Many teams did not get off to the start they were hoping for this weekend. But no one got off to a worse start than the Tigers, who were outscored 21-3 by the Rays. It won’t be like last year, though … right?
Twins: Joey Gallo could be a perfect fit.
It wasn’t that long ago that the then-Ranger made a pair of All-Star teams. Gallo's past couple of seasons have been rough, to the point that he has landed in Minnesota hoping to reignite his career. Two homers in a three-game sweep was a terrific start.
White Sox: The starting pitching will keep them competitive every night.
It is not fun to look at the schedule and realize your season is starting with four games against the defending World Series champions on the road. But the White Sox more than held their own, splitting the series with the Astros thanks in large part to solid starts from Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Mike Clevinger. The bullpen certainly had some issues, but this is a rotation this team can win with.
Angels: The pitching gains they made last year are holding up.
Sure, the A’s are not exactly an offensive juggernaut. But considering the Angels had a 1.04 ERA over the weekend -- and considering the only game they lost was the game in which Shohei Ohtani struck out 10 and gave up only two hits in six scoreless innings -- the Angels’ pitching, which was better last year than you probably realized, may end up being a strength again in 2023. Which bodes very well for a team that had Mike Trout and Ohtani homering back to back on Sunday.
Astros: Alex Bregman will get going, right?
Not many think of Bregman as a star anymore like they once did when he was getting MVP votes in 2018 and ‘19, but he had a good year last year and was primed for one this year. But you can’t start much worse than he did against the White Sox: 0-for-16, with seven strikeouts. You can fix it with one good day, Alex!
A's: The bullpen has some fun arms.
Adam Oller got caught up in the wake of Shintaro Fujinami’s rocky start on Saturday and gave up four earned runs in 4 2/3 innings of mop-up duty. But look at the rest of the A’s bullpen against the Angels: 9 1/3 scoreless innings. You appreciate the good stuff when it happens.
Mariners: The Robbie Ray injury could be a big deal.
The Mariners have other pitchers -- a deeper rotation, really, than many believe -- but Ray is still the guy who makes it all work. But now he’s hitting the IL with a left flexor strain after a fantastic 2022 in which he didn’t miss a single start. Seattle got the first wrench thrown in its plans on the season’s very first day.
Rangers: Jacob deGrom will be fine. Right? Right?
It should be noted that deGrom struck out seven and walked no one, a ratio that’s generally going to work out pretty well for people. So let’s try to focus on that rather than the five runs he gave up.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Max Fried’s hamstring injury is the only thing that went wrong.
OK, so maybe Jared Shuster’s debut didn’t go the way he and the Braves wanted, but Atlanta still looked mostly overwhelming over the weekend, albeit over the middling Nationals. Which brings us back to Fried’s hamstring strain that will put him on the IL but, all told, is still better than an injury to his arm.
Marlins: Luis Arraez may actually change this whole offense.
The Marlins just look a little bit more electric with Arraez in the lineup, with his bat-to-ball skills shining all weekend. Nine-for-16 to start off? That’s what he’s here for.
Mets: Kodai Senga may be as steady as anyone in this rotation.
The Japanese import had a few injury concerns in the spring, but he was all the Mets could have hoped for in his debut, fanning eight in an easy win over the Marlins. Justin Verlander hopefully won’t be gone too long, and Senga will be one of the main guys holding up the fort until he returns.
Nationals: MacKenzie Gore might be the guy we all thought he would be.
He may have been a “see what you can do with him” throw-in in the Juan Soto trade, but right now, Gore looks like the best pitcher on this team … and someone who might just finally be living up to his promise that once made him arguably the top pitching prospect in the game. He’s still just 24!
Phillies: Well, remember, the fun of last year was that it all happened LATE in the year.
The Phillies knew there might be an adjustment period early on in the season, even with Trea Turner, due to the injuries to Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins. But an 0-3 start is not what anyone had in mind. Don’t sweat it, though -- there are just three games at Yankee Stadium on tap.
Brewers: Jesse Winker might be a perfect fit here.
The Brewers benched Winker against a lefty, but otherwise, he looked a lot more like he did with the Reds than he did with the Mariners, posting a .400 OBP. The NL Central really might just be the right place for him.
Cardinals: Uh, offense works.
Against a Blue Jays staff that many analysts were excited about, the Cardinals teed off all weekend, scoring 22 runs, hitting .373 and slugging six homers. None of those homers came from Nolan Arenado or Paul Goldschmidt, either. The star this weekend was undoubtedly Nolan Gorman, the post-hype sleeper who seems to have fixed most of his swing issues from last year and homered twice on Sunday.
Pirates: Here comes Oneil Cruz.
The physical attributes for Cruz are off the charts; it has really been about whether he could put all those tools together. He certainly did in the spring, and it carried over for the first weekend, as he hit .400 with a homer. Even better: He had more walks (two) than strikeouts (one).
Reds: Could Graham Ashcraft make the Big Two a Big Three?
The Reds’ offense and bullpen are going to have some issues this year, but facing Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo two out of every five games is not going to be fun for opposing teams. And Ashcraft made a case for himself to be just as scary, allowing just one run over seven innings on Sunday against Pittsburgh. Those three are quite the rotation foundation to build around.
D-backs: Corbin Carroll has the green light.
Carroll had three steals over the weekend, tied for second in baseball behind Baltimore’s Jorge Mateo. And of all the things Carroll can do well, the thing everyone is going to notice first is all the steals.
Dodgers: The timely hitting isn’t happening yet.
The Dodgers outscored the D-backs 20-7 in a four-game set over the weekend … but they split the series, thanks to a frustrating tendency to miss big moments in both of their losses. The Dodgers looked like their dominant selves for much of the first four games ... and still split.
Giants: This tandem start thing might return.
The one game the Giants won at Yankee Stadium came on Saturday, when San Francisco -- to help ease the workload of some of their starters early in the year – had Jakob Junis piggyback Alex Cobb. It worked splendidly, with Junis picking up the win and the Giants making it through the tough Yankees lineup with their staff relatively intact.
Padres: It’s not happening yet for Juan Soto.
Soto sure looked like a guy who was going to rocket out of the gate this year, but not yet. He went 1-for-14 in four games with just two walks.
Rockies: Kris Bryant is capable of playing baseball -- and well!
Bryant has now played in nearly more than a tenth as many games as he did last year, so we know it can be done. He looks good, too, going 6-for-16 with a double and a couple of walks over the weekend. It might be fun watching him and C.J. Cron hit a couple spots from each other this year, all told.