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Thor, Verlander on tap in marquee matchup

Archer, Felix also slated for spring debuts
MLB.com

The first full week of Spring Training exhibitions opens with a number of star pitchers toeing the rubber for their clubs in Grapefruit and Cactus League action.

The Mets' Noah Syndergaard and the Astros' Justin Verlander will clash in the day's marquee matchup on MLB Network and MLB.TV. Big names like Felix Hernandez, Sonny Gray and Chris Archer are also slated to take the mound for their spring debuts. Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times in ET):

The first full week of Spring Training exhibitions opens with a number of star pitchers toeing the rubber for their clubs in Grapefruit and Cactus League action.

The Mets' Noah Syndergaard and the Astros' Justin Verlander will clash in the day's marquee matchup on MLB Network and MLB.TV. Big names like Felix Hernandez, Sonny Gray and Chris Archer are also slated to take the mound for their spring debuts. Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times in ET):

Thor, Mets take on Verlander, defending champs: Mets @ Astros, 1:05 p.m., MLB Network, MLB.TV
Fans will be treated to an elite pitching matchup when the Astros host the Mets today in West Palm Beach, Fla., with Syndergaard and Verlander making their spring debuts. Syndergaard said his spring throwing plan is focused on reduced stress after the right-hander missed four months with a torn lat muscle last season.

"My personal goal is to stay healthy, but even then, that's hard to control," Syndergaard said earlier this month. "I just try to put my body in the best possible situation every day and become a better pitcher."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Verlander, meanwhile, is in his first Spring Training with the Astros as the club begins its quest to repeat last year's World Series run. The veteran ace leads one of baseball's best rotations, featuring Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and newcomer Gerrit Cole.

"I think the American League goes through us," Verlander said at an early spring workout. "Everybody in this locker room thinks we have a championship-caliber team here. We're not resting on any laurels."

Video: McTaggart on Verlander's potential for 2018

Archer makes Grapefruit League debut: TOR @ TB, 1:05 p.m. ET, MLB.com
After an offseason of trade rumors, Archer will take the mound for his first game action of the spring. The Rays have shaken up their roster in recent weeks by trading key contributors Jake Odorizzi, Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson, but the players who remain have established a tone of optimism and motivation heading into 2018.

"Baseball's a game where anything can happen," Archer said after the Souza trade. "I'm hoping that other guys can step up and fill the voids that we're missing. I'm definitely going to be optimistic. I'm going to go out here and give it everything I have and encourage other guys to do the same."

Video: Archer on spring, pitching staff getting ready

For the Blue Jays, left-hander Ryan Borucki -- Toronto's No. 12 prospect, per MLB Pipeline -- will start. He's expected to begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo.

King Felix takes the hill: SEA @ CHC, 3:05 p.m. ET, Gameday Audio
Hernandez will toe the rubber for Seattle for the first time in 2018 when the Mariners visit the Cubs at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz. The veteran hurler has been encouraged by his results in Mariners camp this spring. He's looking to rebound after a down year marred by injury.

"Way better," Hernandez said after a bullpen session last week. "My mechanics were much better. It was really good. My timing, I wasn't rushing. I was so calm and delivered the pitch. It was really good."

Video: Felix Hernandez talks about his offseason workouts

Tyler Chatwood will start for Chicago, making his Cubs debut after signing a three-year contract with the club in December. Cubs stars Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are also expected to play.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

New York Mets, Houston Astros, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Verlander