Rockies-Padres Opening Day starting pitchers: Márquez vs. Snell

March 30th, 2023

and have renewed their status as Opening Day starters in 2023. For Márquez, he’s set to take the ball in the opener for the first time since ‘21. For Snell, it’s his first since ‘19 -- and his first Opening Day start as a Padre.

It should make for a fun opener at Petco Park on Thursday (7:40 p.m. MT, 6:40 p.m. PT) -- two high-octane starters with some of the sport’s nastiest breaking pitches. Here’s a look at what to expect from next week’s Márquez-Snell showdown:

RHP Germán Márquez
Previous Opening Day starts: 2
2022 Season: 9-13, 4.95 ERA, 4.71 FIP, 1.365 WHIP, 150 strikeouts in 181 2/3 innings

After a year plus of struggle and what he felt was a much-needed adjustment to his pitch strategy, Márquez believes he is capable of repeating the first half of the 2021 season -- when he earned an All-Star Game invitation.

Since basking in the applause of the Coors Field fans after his Midsummer Classic inning, Márquez is a pedestrian 17-18 with a 4.70 ERA. But there were hot streaks within those 44 starts, and Márquez should be at the point where he shows growth.

From his entry into the Rockies’ rotation in 2017, Márquez has flashed the ability to dominate the zone with his four-seam fastball that can exceed 97 mph and his knuckle curve that drops dramatically, pitches that can garner him strikeouts or ground balls. But living with two arm-side pitches -- outside to right-handed batters -- required pinpoint location. However, he tends to miss over the plate. Those pitches are hit, often hard, despite the pitch action.

Márquez went into last season planning to use a sinker on the other side of the plate -- a logical move for a pitcher wanting to take the next step in his career. But the beginning of the new Márquez was rough -- a 6.71 ERA through his first 10 starts. He posted a 4.26 ERA in his final 21 starts, with some solid stretches but also some clunkers.

Márquez did not give up a run in his first three Cactus League outings this year, with 13 strikeouts to two walks. He yielded two runs in three innings against Mexico in a World Baseball Classic exhibition but noted that he devoted the entire outing to pitching inside -- a fact a strong lineup also noted. Márquez, though, felt some hard-hit balls gave him valuable information.

Is Márquez back to All-Star form? Opening Day is the start of his answer.

LHP Blake Snell
Previous Opening Day starts: 1
2022 Season: 8-10, 3.38 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 1.203 WHIP, 171 strikeouts in 128 innings

It should say everything about this Padres roster that Snell was seemingly the team’s third choice for the role. Snell, of course, is a certifiable ace with a Cy Young Award to his name. But entering camp, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove seemed poised to battle it out for the Game 1 start.

Musgrove, however, fractured his left big toe when he dropped a weight on it in the team’s weight room. He’s expected to begin the season on the injured list. Darvish, meanwhile, had a bit of a scattershot spring with Team Japan at the World Baseball Classic, and upon his return, the team restructured its plans to ensure Darvish got a spring start.

So the Opening Day role falls to Snell, who is more than capable. The 30-year-old left-hander is coming off a brilliant second half of his 2022 season, in which he posted a 2.19 ERA. If Snell can carry that success into the ‘23 season -- his last before free agency -- he could be in for a major payday next winter.

Easier said than done. Snell has been plagued by slow starts in his Padres tenure, twice entering the All-Star break with an ERA north of 4, then twice dominating in the second half. He has spoken repeatedly about his desire to shift that narrative. There’s no better time to start than with an Opening Day start.

"I can't wait," Snell said. "I love the crowd, I love pitching in San Diego, I love that stadium -- it's my favorite one. So I don't take it for granted."