10 starting pitchers to watch on Opening Weekend

April 1st, 2023

Opening Day featured some incredible pitching performances from aces like Gerrit Cole and Shohei Ohtani. Opening Weekend could have even more in store.

This weekend, we've got big names making their debuts with new teams, prospects debuting in the big leagues, former aces returning to the mound and looking to recapture past dominance, as well as young pitchers hoping to set the tone for a dominant 2023.

These pitchers didn't get the Opening Day start for their clubs, but they're definitely worth tuning in for.

Here are 10 starting pitchers to watch this weekend.

1) , Red Sox
Starts: Saturday vs. Orioles, 4:10 p.m. ET

It's the long-awaited return of Sale to the Red Sox. A healthy Sale can be one of baseball's elite strikeout aces, but he's made only 11 starts over the last three seasons, and he last pitched in July 2022. Will the lefty have his electric fastball-slider combo back? Tune in.

2) , Mets
Starts: Sunday at Marlins, 1:40 p.m. ET

The big debut for the Mets this weekend is Senga's as the Japanese right-hander pitches in the Major Leagues for the first time. Senga was an ace for Nippon Professional Baseball's Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, with a 1.94 ERA and 156 K's last season. Now Mets fans can't wait to see his 100 mph fastball and "ghost fork" splitter in action.

3) , A's
Starts: Saturday vs. Angels, 4:07 p.m. ET

Another hard-throwing Japanese starter making his MLB debut, Fujinami has a great fastball-splitter combo of his own. But the big thing that makes this game a marquee matchup is that he's facing Shohei Ohtani (only hitting on Saturday) -- who was Fujinami's rival in high school in Japan.

4) , Reds
Starts: Saturday vs. Pirates, 4:10 p.m. ET

Lodolo is a popular pick to be a breakout ace in 2023, and for good reason. His stuff looked nasty all spring -- he had a 2.16 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings -- and projections see him breaking through the 200-strikeout mark in his sophomore season. The 25-year-old lefty is part of a young Reds pitching core that could become one of the best in baseball.

5) , Nationals
Starts: Sunday vs. Braves, 1:35 p.m. ET

Gore was one of the big pieces the Nationals got in the Juan Soto trade last August, but this will be his debut for the Nats. The 24-year-old lefty has a fastball that can reach the upper 90s, and a beautiful 12-6 curve. Hopefully this is the beginning of big things for him in Washington.

6) , Cardinals
Starts: Saturday vs. Blue Jay, 2:15 p.m. ET

This could be a make-or-break year for Flaherty, the one-time Cardinals ace who's struggled with injuries and rocky performance over the last few years. The 27-year-old will be a free agent at the end of the season. At his best, Flaherty was a Cy Young candidate, and that was only a few years ago.

7) , Braves
Starts: Saturday at Nationals, 4:05 p.m. ET

Strider was one of the most overpowering pitchers in baseball as a rookie, and one of the most fun to watch, racking up 202 strikeouts in just 131 2/3 innings with triple-digit heat and a wipeout slider. But his season ended on a sour note when he missed the final few weeks with an oblique strain and got knocked around by the Phillies when he returned in the NLDS. Let's see if he's back with a vengeance in Year 2.

8) , Braves
Starts: Sunday at Nationals, 1:35 p.m. ET

Following Strider in the rotation is Shuster, the Braves' No. 1 prospect, making his MLB debut. The 24-year-old lefty made Atlanta's Opening Day roster and will get the ball for the series finale against the Nats. Keep an eye out for Shuster's tumbling changeup, his go-to strikeout pitch.

9) , Dodgers
Starts: Sunday vs. D-backs, 4:10 p.m. ET

Thor's Dodgers debut comes in their Opening Series finale. There's been a lot of talk about Syndergaard's velocity, which has fallen from 100-plus mph at his peak to the low-to-mid 90s. In December, Syndergaard said, "I see no excuse as to why I can’t get back to 100 mph and even farther than," but this spring, he's said he's "not going out there trying to throw 100." The Dodgers work wonders with their pitchers; we'll see what Syndergaard's got in L.A.

10) , Cubs
Starts: Sunday vs. Brewers, 2:20 p.m. ET

Taillon was the big pitching addition of the Cubs' busy offseason -- he's joining Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger, Eric Hosmer, Trey Mancini and others in Chicago, and Sunday will be his debut at Wrigley Field. The 31-year-old right-hander went 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA and 151 strikeouts for the Yankees in 2022.