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Ready to Go: Sho, Yu step up for 1st weekend

Angels star in line for first start Sunday vs. A's; Darvish to debut for Cubs on Saturday
March 29, 2018

The excitement over all 30 clubs starting the 2018 season on the same day was fun while it lasted, until Mother Nature did what she tends to do by disrupting our plans and pageantry. So it is that the Tigers and Pirates (1:10 p.m. ET) and Reds and Nationals (4:10

The excitement over all 30 clubs starting the 2018 season on the same day was fun while it lasted, until Mother Nature did what she tends to do by disrupting our plans and pageantry. So it is that the Tigers and Pirates (1:10 p.m. ET) and Reds and Nationals (4:10 p.m.) continue the Opening Day festivities today at Comerica Park and Great American Ball Park, respectively, with their "better late than never" season-starters.
This whole weekend schedule is a bit different because of the Thursday openers we just enjoyed, which leaves us with an usual Sunday slate that has six teams with off-days. But even that wrinkle doesn't temper our excitement over this first weekend of action in 2018.
Here are five key storylines and matchups to track this weekend:
1. Sho Time
It will be kind of like Oh-pening Day on Sunday in Oakland at 4:05 p.m. when the Angels give Shohei Ohtani his much-anticipated first Major League start against a power-packed A's lineup. Of course, "first start" does not equate to "Major League debut" in this unusual case, as Ohtani already debuted as a designated hitter on Thursday and notched his first Major League hit in his first at-bat.
For all the scrutiny -- and in many cases, negativity -- Ohtani faced from evaluators with a 27.00 ERA on the mound and a .125 average at the plate in the Cactus League, there is pretty widespread agreement that his raw stuff will play in the Halos' rotation, eventually if not immediately. So it will be exciting to see how that stuff -- a fiery fastball that he can run up into triple digits, nasty splitter and sharp slider -- translates now that it counts.

2. Yu gotta see this
What's it like for Ohtani to be a Japanese import facing so much attention and anticipation? Yu Darvish might not be a two-way talent like Ohtani, but he could tell you a bit about that pressure to perform. Darvish was the Rangers' much-hyped addition in 2012, and we can look back and say that he more than lived up to the demands of that six-year, $60 million contract with Texas.
Now, Darvish has a new deal with a new club. The Cubs weren't expected to go full-throttle in the signing of a starting arm, but Darvish, despite last year's World Series struggles, proved too tantalizing, leading to a six-year, $126 million deal. Darvish's last start with the Rangers, before last year's non-waiver Trade Deadline, was against the Marlins, and so is his first start with the Cubbies -- 7:10 p.m. on Saturday at Marlins Park.

3. Wild idea
FanGraphs' preseason projections called for the Mets and Cardinals to be this year's National League Wild Card winners, as did our poll of more than 50 experts from and MLB Network. And when did the projections or the predictions ever let us down before?
OK, don't answer that. But do watch the continuation of the season-opening series between the Mets and Cardinals at Citi Field (1:10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday) with the understanding that it could very well be an October preview. Both of these clubs have their work cut out for them if they're going to run down the Nationals and Cubs, respectively, in their divisions. But if Marcell Ozuna lengthens the Cards' lineup as advertised and the Mets actually manage to keep their rotation together, the wildest dreams of the forecasters could come true.
4. Price is (finally) right
An iffy left elbow -- and, yes, that off-field uproar with Dennis Eckersley -- led to a topsy-turvy 2017 for David Price, who prior to that point had been one of the game's greatest workhorses. Price averaged 218 regular-season innings pitched from 2010-16, but last year, he accounted for just 74 2/3, finishing the season in the Red Sox's bullpen. But coming off a healthy and successful spring camp, Price could be one of this year's biggest and best bounce-back stories.
The story starts with Friday's 7:10 p.m. game in a familiar place -- Tropicana Field, where Price will face the team he broke through with in his first official start since July 22.

5. Giant undertaking
San Francisco was barraged by injuries late in camp, with pitchers Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon all on the shelf to start the season. These are significant losses, and it's especially significant with the Giants playing the Dodgers, winners of five straight NL West titles, 10 times in the season's first month, including this weekend's continuation of a four-game set at Dodger Stadium. Of course, the Dodgers have a significant early injury of their own with Justin Turner's broken left wrist, but a strong start amid trying circumstances would be especially meaningful for a San Francisco squad trying to pull itself out of the NL West cellar. 
The season-opening series between these long-standing rivals, which began with Thursday's 1-0 Giants win, culminates with a date on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball at 8:37 p.m. ET.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcasts and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.