Opening Day FAQ: Pirates vs. Cardinals

April 7th, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- Opening Day at Busch Stadium is almost always a notable and festive day because of the appearance of red-coated royalty such as Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog, Ted Simmons and Bruce Sutter circling the field in convertibles.

This year, however, the biggest stars of Opening Day will be three players in Cardinals jerseys who all have legitimate shots of someday being in baseball’s Hall of Fame themselves.

Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright are back together, and they will start Opening Day together for the first time since 2009 on Thursday.

For the Cardinals, Opening Day is an opportunity to celebrate the past. For the Pirates, it's a chance to take their next step toward a brighter future, one in which they, too, can bask in championship glory.

Bryan Reynolds and Ke'Bryan Hayes certainly look the part of franchise pillars, a duo to lay the foundation as the next generation climbs through the farm system. If Mitch Keller's sensational Spring Training is to be believed, he could be the frontline ace Pittsburgh has desperately sought. And, yes, Oneil Cruz, though starting the season with Triple-A Indianapolis, may not be too far behind.

When is the game and how can I watch/listen to it?
First pitch is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. ET/3:15 CT and will be available live on MLB.TV.

Pirates fans can watch the game on AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh. In St. Louis, Opening Day and the many festivities will be televised by Bally Sports Midwest. Bally Sports play-by-play man Dan McLaughlin will be beginning his 25th season of Cardinals baseball behind the microphone. On the Cardinals Radio Network -- the largest such radio network throughout MLB -- Ricky Horton will be working exclusively on radio during games while replacing 82-year-old Mike Shannon, who retired last season following 50 years of broadcasting.

Both games will also be available live on MLB Audio.

The starting lineups
Reynolds has seen a lot of time in the two-hole during Spring Training, and that didn't change with the Opening Day lineup.

Cardinals: St. Louis wants more production out of its leadoff spot and made the move to put rising star Dylan Carlson there. Manager Oliver Marmol said there’s no reason that Carlson -- who hit 18 home runs as a rookie -- can’t still hit for power from the leadoff spot. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, who have notoriously been slow starters for years, came to camp in great shape and had great outings in Spring Training. Goldschmidt hit his fourth home run of the spring Monday, and he had another potential home run robbed by Washington’s Lane Thomas. If Pujols and Paul DeJong hit and Harrison Bader can repeat his career-best numbers from last season, the Cardinals have a chance to be one of the top offensive units in the National League.

Who are the starting pitchers?
In 2020, JT Brubaker made his Major League debut at an empty Busch Stadium. Come Thursday, Brubaker will once again return to that same mound, this time in front of a full-capacity crowd that will be excited to see Pujols, Wainwright and Molina share a diamond again. Brubaker, who watched the trio in high school, will have the chance to play spoiler. Brubaker had an encouraging start last year, but he trailed off as the season went on. Brubaker has the stuff, but it’s all about putting everything together over a full season.

Cardinals: Adam Wainwright’s Opening Day start -- his first since 2016 -- is a continuation of what’s gone on this spring. After working out throughout January and February at his alma mater of Glynn Academy (Brunswick, Ga.), Wainwright showed up to camp in tremendous shape and threw the team’s first live BP and made the first Spring Training start. He was victimized by one poor inning three times in the spring, and he’ll be looking to stay away from that sort of damage against the pesky Pirates.

How might the bullpens set up and factor into the game?
With the signing of Heath Hembree, the Pirates now have several options for the later innings. Chris Stratton and David Bednar will be the team’s two closers by committee, while Hembree, Duane Underwood Jr. and Anthony Banda could see time later in the ballgame as well. The Pirates likely won’t employ their strategy of using two multi-inning pitchers to eat the first five or six innings in the season’s first game, but they could use that strategy at some point during the series.

Cardinals: Marmol would prefer to not assign specific “closer” and “setup” roles to pitchers out of the bullpen, and instead plans to use his relief corps according to favorable matchups and analytics. Making that role easier is the Cardinals having two pitchers -- Jordan Hicks and Giovanny Gallegos -- who have closed games in the past. When Alex Reyes -- who had 29 saves and 10 wins last season -- returns from a frayed right labrum in June, the Cardinals will have three pitchers with closing experience. Hicks -- who has missed much of the past 2 1/2 years following Tommy John surgery, a COVID opt-out season and an elbow reinjury -- dialed back his top fastball to 100-101 mph. Génesis Cabrera, who saw his velocity dip during Spring Training, is the top option from the left side.

What are the injuries of note?
Alford was slated to be the team’s fourth outfielder, but he will miss the beginning of the season with a right hand injury. Allen's status is questionable as well. Hayes (right ankle) and Tsutsugo (neck tightness) should be ready to go.

Cardinals: Jack Flaherty, St. Louis' Opening Day starter each of the past two seasons, was placed on the 10-day injured list Monday with right shoulder inflammation. Flaherty, a nine-game winner last season despite battling oblique and shoulder issues, received a platelet-rich plasma injection into his shoulder two weeks ago. Flaherty recently started conditioning and plyometric work, and he hopes to soon begin a throwing program. The Cardinals hope that Flaherty can return by early May.

Who’s hot and who’s not?
No one has had a better spring than Castillo. The 24-year-old hit six home runs while playing all around the diamond — including his first foray in right field. Castillo rightfully earned an Opening Day spot, and he will have the opportunity to earn some staying power in his first experience of the Major Leagues.

Cardinals: Pressed into a battle for his starting spot, DeJong responded in a big way this spring. Following an offseason in which he retooled his swing and worked on hitting the ball the other way, DeJong entered the final week of Spring Training with 10 hits his first 20 at-bats while also pounding two home runs and three doubles for nine RBIs. Coming off two subpar seasons, DeJong again looks like the player who crushed 30 home runs in 2019. DeJong will make his fifth straight Opening Day start -- the longest streak at shortstop in the franchise since Edgar Renteria started six straight from 1999-2004.

As for who’s not hot, Edman finished spring having hit 2-for-24 with four strikeouts. Edman has already been moved out of the leadoff spot and will likely be in the No. 9 or No. 8 hole until his hitting picks up. He finished with 41 doubles last season, but the Cardinals were not happy with his lagging on-base percentage from the leadoff spot.

Is there anything fans need to know going into this series?
• In addition to Smith, Herzog, Simmons and Sutter, several members of the Cardinals Hall of Fame are scheduled to attend Opening Day. Mark McGwire, Scott Rolen, Tom Herr, Tim McCarver, Jim Edmonds, Jason Isringhausen, Ray Lankford, Shannon, Vince Coleman, John Tudor and Willie McGee will participate in the pregame activities.

• The Cardinals announced that the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, located on the second floor of Cardinals Nation at Ballpark Village, has unveiled its new featured exhibit entitled “Celebration! 1982.” The exhibit celebrates the 40th anniversary of the 1982 World Series championship season and relives the “Whitey-ball” era -- which saw the Cardinals win three pennants and have the best winning percentage among any National League team -- from the perspective of Herzog.