José Abreu's memorable tenure on the South Side of Chicago came to an end this past offseason when he signed with the Astros as a free agent. But he did not need to wait long to see his former teammates, as Houston hosted the White Sox on Opening Day.
While facing a former team is a common experience in the Major Leagues, facing one under these circumstances is a bit more rare. Fewer than 150 times in the Wild Card era (since 1995) has a player squared off on Opening Day against a team he played for the previous season. And only a small number of those confrontations featured a player with a track record as significant as Abreu's with his old club.
Here are 10 of the most notable examples from the past 30 seasons, with research help from MLB.com’s Jason Bernard.
2023: José Abreu (Astros) vs. White Sox
Stat line: 1-for-4
Abreu spent nine seasons with the White Sox after signing with the organization as an amateur free agent out of Cuba in 2013. He won an AL MVP Award, a Rookie of the Year Award and made three All-Star teams during that time. However, Abreu and the White Sox parted ways after the 2022 season, and the veteran first baseman landed with the defending World Series-champion Astros on a three-year, $58.5 million deal. He came up on the losing end against his old team on Opening Day, as the White Sox notched a 3-2 victory to snap Houston’s 10-game Opening Day winning streak.
2020: Nick Castellanos (Reds) vs. Tigers
Stat line: 1-for-2, 2B, HBP, RBI
Coming off a 2019 season in which he hit 58 doubles for the Tigers and Cubs, it seemed only appropriate that Castellanos' first hit with the Reds was a two-bagger against his former squad. The slugger debuted with Detroit in 2013 and played in parts of seven seasons before being dealt before the 2019 Trade Deadline. Castellanos signed a four-year $64 million contract with Cincinnati but exercised an opt-out clause after the 2021 season and joined the Phillies on a five-year, $100 million deal.
2019: A.J. Pollock (Dodgers) at D-backs
Stat line: 0-for-3, BB
Pollock spent the first seven years of his Major League career with the D-backs after the team drafted him 17th overall in 2009. When he reached free agency, he signed a four-year, $55 million with the division rival. He went 0-for-3 in that first game against the D-backs on Opening Day but ultimately had a strong showing against his former team in 2019. In 10 matchups, he hit .324 with a .909 OPS and a homer off Robbie Ray in the second game of the season.
2017: Dexter Fowler (Cardinals) vs. Cubs
Stat line: 1-for-4, BB
Fowler only spent two seasons in Chicago, arriving in a January 2015 trade from Houston and re-signing on a one-year deal entering ‘16. He made that time count, playing on two postseason teams, including the ‘16 club that won it all for the first time since 1908. In Game 7 of the World Series, Fowler hit the only leadoff homer in winner-take-all World Series history and one of just four in any winner-take-all game overall. That December, he signed a five-year deal with the division-rival Cardinals, leading him to an Opening Day tilt against his former team. He went 1-for-4, knocking a single off Jon Lester.
2015: Matt Kemp (Padres) at Dodgers
Stat line: 2-for-4, 3 RBI
The Dodgers drafted Kemp in 2003, and he spent nine seasons with Los Angeles before the club traded him to the Padres in December 2014, in part due to salary. In December 2011, he’d signed an eight-year, $160 million extension with the club on the heels of a second-place NL MVP finish. Kemp was an All-Star for the second time in 2012, but he did not return to that MVP-caliber level. As luck and the schedule-makers would have it, his first Major League game in anything other than a Dodgers uniform came at Chavez Ravine. He got off to a strong start, with an RBI single off Clayton Kershaw in the first inning and a two-run double off him in the fifth. In 16 games against the Dodgers that year, Kemp hit .328. He was later traded to the Braves, back to the Dodgers for one season in 2018, and then away again, this time to Cincinnati.
2011: Adrián Beltré (Rangers) vs. Red Sox
Stat line: 1-for-4, BB
Beltré signed a one-year deal with Boston for 2010, after 12 Major League seasons with the Dodgers and Mariners. He had a resurgent season there, earning his first All-Star Game nod, his second Silver Slugger Award, and receiving AL MVP consideration. But when the season ended, he signed with Texas, where Beltré would end up playing eight seasons to finish up his career. His first game in a Rangers uniform came at home against none other than the Red Sox. Beltré knocked a single off Jon Lester and scored on a Mike Napoli homer, before working an eighth-inning walk against Tim Wakefield.
2011: Juan Uribe (Dodgers) vs. Giants
Stat line: 1-for-3, HBP
Uribe spent two seasons with the Giants, playing a pivotal postseason role on the 2010 World Series-winning club. He hit the go-ahead solo home run in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series to propel the Giants to the World Series, then homered in the fifth inning of World Series Game 1. But when free agency called for him in the offseason, he headed to the rival Dodgers and found himself facing Tim Lincecum and the defending champs on Opening Day. A few series later, Uribe received his World Series ring on the field in San Francisco and was hugged by former teammates.
2008: Torii Hunter (Angels) at Twins
Stat line: 0-for-4
Hunter was drafted 20th overall by the Twins in 1993 and played 11 Major League seasons for the club before signing as a free agent with the Angels for the 2008 season. And it just so happened that his first game in an Angels uniform came on Opening Day back in Minnesota. He went 0-for-4 against Livan Hernandez and Joe Nathan, then was 0-for-4 in the second game of the year, too. He finally notched his first two hits in an Angels uniform in the third game. And it wasn’t the last time Hunter would have this experience. After playing with Detroit in 2013-14, he returned to Minnesota for his final season in ‘15, when the Twins faced the Tigers on Opening Day.
2006: Rafael Furcal (Dodgers) vs. Braves
Stat line: 3-for-5, BB
Furcal spent the first six years of his Major League career with the Braves after signing with the team as an amateur free agent in 1996. He won NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and was an All-Star in ‘03, when he also received MVP consideration. When he reached free agency before the ’06 season, he signed with the Dodgers for three years and $39 million. Though he didn’t go to a division rival, he still found himself facing his old teammates on Opening Day when the Dodgers hosted the Braves. Furcal reached on an error, walked and singled against Tim Hudson, before notching two more singles off the Braves’ bullpen.
1993: Greg Maddux (Braves) at Cubs
Stat line: 8 1/3 IP, 5 H, 0 R
Maddux spent the first seven years of his Major League career with the Cubs, after they selected him in the second round of the 1984 Draft. When he reached free agency following the 1992 season, he had a 3.35 career ERA in more than 1,400 career innings and had just won his first Cy Young Award. He signed a five-year deal with Atlanta, where he would go on to pitch his next 11 seasons before returning to the Cubs. On Opening Day 1993, the Braves found themselves at Wrigley Field with Maddux on the hill. He turned in a strong performance, pitching the first 8 1/3 innings of a Braves’ 1-0 win. Maddux would go on to successfully defend his Cy Young Award in each of his first three seasons in Atlanta.