Champs' Fenway return one of eight home openers
Red Sox to receive World Series rings; Wrigley Field to celebrate 100 years
Today will be a special day in Boston, where the defending World Series champions will make their Fenway Park debut in 2014 and get a good look at their championship rings.
But the Red Sox aren't the only team that will enjoy a home opener as the first weekend of Major League action all around the country kicks in. Eight clubs will celebrate the pageantry of lifting the lid off the 81-game home schedule, and each game will provide its own intrigue.
In Beantown, all eyes will be on the Red Sox and Brewers, but hours before the 1:05 p.m. ET first pitch, a lot of eyes will be on David Ortiz, who will take over the official Twitter accounts of Major League Baseball (@MLB) and his team (@RedSox) while doing his own tweeting @davidortiz from 8:30-10:30 a.m. ET and answering questions from fans.
Once the game starts, the Brewers will throw right-hander Marco Estrada against Boston righty Jake Peavy, and the excitement of baseball will once again take over for the 103rd season on Yawkey Way.
"If you can't have an Opening Day start [of the season], what's better than the home opener coming off a World Series win and ring ceremony?" Peavy said.
"You just realize how special last year was. To become part of a family and win a World Series, and now starting 2014 trying to find a way to defend that title is special, something … I feel very blessed to be a part of."
In Chicago, the Cubs and their fans are feeling good about their home opener at Wrigley Field, which is celebrating its 100th year. The Cubs and pitcher Travis Wood will take on the Phillies and right-hander Roberto Hernandez, and the fans will dress accordingly in what is supposed to be a mid-40s day with 28-mph southerly winds. Pretty Chicago-esque, to be sure, and fitting for what the team is calling the "party of the century."
"Opening Day at Wrigley is always special," Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney said. "You have Bill Murray running around the bases -- that's something you don't see anywhere else. They probably don't allow it anywhere else. There's always something memorable there. You can almost see the whole season ahead of you in the ivy."
Elsewhere around the National League and American League, teams will bust out the red carpets for their fans, who have waited for this moment through a long winter.
Home openers will cross the border into Toronto, where the Blue Jays will get things started for the season at Rogers Centre and have the chance to witness something special as starter Dustin McGowan is slated to make his first start at the Major League level since late September 2011.
The Yankees, meanwhile, will start Masahiro Tanaka in his Major League debut. It's another story line full of intrigue on a day packed with it.
"He's got more than just the splitter," Yankees catcher Brian McCann said of Tanaka. "He can attack inside-outside with his fastball, go up and down, and I'm very impressed with his cutter and his slider as well. Guys that can throw any pitch in any count, with the stuff he's got -- definitely fun to catch."
The Nationals will bring their 3-0 record to Nationals Park, where they will face the Braves and where they'll have to make a decision regarding who will start the game against Atlanta pitcher David Hale.
Thursday's scheduled Nationals starter, Jordan Zimmermann, became ill late Wednesday night, so Tanner Roark filled in with a spot-start victory over the Mets on Thursday in New York. It's possible that Zimmermann will rebound in time for the home opener, or the Nationals could try a mishmash of relievers, such as Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen.
"We still don't know," Washington manager Matt Williams said after Thursday's game. "We still don't know how he is going to feel when he gets to the ballpark in the morning."
Out in Los Angeles, the Dodgers will play their third opener and first at home. They've already opened the MLB season with two games against the D-backs in Sydney, Australia, and they played the Sunday night United States season-opening game in San Diego.
Now they're back in their comfy quarters atop Chavez Ravine, they're facing their NL West archrival San Francisco Giants, and they're likely getting back their former All-Star outfielder, Matt Kemp, who's expected to make his season debut.
For Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, today's home opener will be his third start in his team's first six games. The Giants will counter with right-hander Ryan Vogelsong.
Back in the AL, the Indians will welcome their fans to Progressive Field for the first time in 2014, and they will be celebrating, too. Not only did the team make the playoffs with a sizzling late-season run in 2013, but today, before their game against the Twins, they'll honor the 20th anniversary of the stadium, which opened in 1994 under the name Jacobs Field.
Former Indians catcher and current first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. will catch the ceremonial first pitch, which will be thrown by former Tribe manager Mike Hargrove, and the club will raise a 20th-anniversary flag and play a video tribute. Then Indians righty Danny Salazar will start the game opposite Twins righty Mike Pelfrey.
"Everybody loves going home. It feels like it's been forever," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Home openers are always special. Openers are special, but home openers are really special."
The Rockies, Royals and Blue Jays will have similar feelings today, when they close out the octet of home openers throughout baseball.
Colorado will pitch right-hander Juan Nicasio against Arizona righty Randall Delgado in its Coors Field opener, which will begin at 2:10 p.m. MT and could be a bit on the chilly side, considering the Denver area has had snow of late.
There were snow showers in the Denver area on Thursday, and the temperature hovered around 40. The forecast for today is for clear sunny skies and 55 degrees.
"I got a text this morning, a picture out the window and there was a lot of snow at our place," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "But it'll be good -- a great atmosphere and we play well at home. I look forward to it."
In Kansas City, the Royals will open the 2014 slate at Kauffman Stadium with a matinee against their AL Central-rival White Sox and Erik Johnson.