Opening Day FAQ: Twins vs. Royals

March 28th, 2024

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals were one of the busiest teams this offseason revamping their roster in hopes of making a significant stride toward contending.

The team they’re chasing down in the division? The Twins.

That should make it a fun Opening Day matchup as the Twins look to repeat as the American League Central champions and the Royals hope to mesh their new veterans with a young homegrown core to turn around a 106-loss season in 2023.

Here’s everything you need to know about Opening Day:

When is the game and how can I watch it?

Opening Day is Thursday at 3:10 p.m. CT at Kauffman Stadium. Fans follow on MLB.TV and Gameday on The game will also be available to listen on Royals Radio Network or Treasure Island Baseball Network.

What are the lineups?

Twins: The fact that the Royals are putting a lefty on the mound for Opening Day means that the Twins’ lineup likely won’t be totally representative of how they should look for most of the season, considering manager Rocco Baldelli loves to platoon aggressively.

  1. Byron Buxton, CF
  2. Ryan Jeffers, C
  3. Royce Lewis, 3B
  4. Carlos Correa, SS
  5. Carlos Santana, 1B (S)
  6. Max Kepler, RF (L)
  7. Kyle Farmer, 2B
  8. Willi Castro, LF (S)
  9. Manuel Margot, DH

Royals: The Royals believe their lineup will be improved with the return of Vinnie Pasquantino at first and the addition of Hunter Renfroe in the outfield, as well as the younger hitters getting another year of experience. Adam Frazier, as a lefty, starts the game at second base with Michael Massey beginning the season on the injured list.

Kansas City won’t have one set designated hitter this season, so Nelson Velázquez could find himself in the corner outfield with several hitters rotating in at DH.

  1. Maikel Garcia, 3B
  2. Bobby Witt Jr. SS
  3. Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B (L)
  4. Salvador Perez, C
  5. MJ Melendez, LF (L)
  6. Hunter Renfroe, RF
  7. Adam Frazier, 2B (L)
  8. Nelson Velázquez , DH
  9. Kyle Isbel, CF (L)

Who are the starting pitchers?

Twins: Pablo López, RHP (11-8, 3.66 ERA in 2023)
It’s the second straight Opening Day nod for López, who figures to be fixed into this role for many years to come. Though he pitched to a 3.66 ERA last season, López was also durable, a workhorse and frequently flashed utter dominance. And, by the way, he was on the mound when the Twins snapped their 18-game playoff losing streak.

López’s elite underlying numbers suggested his ERA should have been much better, and his 234 strikeouts from a year ago ranked second in the AL by a whisker.

Royals: Cole Ragans, LHP (7-5, 3.47 ERA in 2023)
Ragans draws his first Opening Day start after wowing the Royals last year following the trade that sent him from Texas to Kansas City. The Royals selected Ragans for Opening Day over veteran additions Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha, sending a message that Ragans has emerged as their budding ace.

Ragans posted a 2.64 ERA in 12 starts and dominated hitters in 2023, and now, he begins the quest to prove that status over a full year of starts as one of the leaders on the pitching staff.

How might the bullpens line up after the starter?

Twins: This … is a very good question, and the main issue that has blossomed this spring. Three of Minnesota’s top five relief options will open the season on the IL, headlined by closer Jhoan Duran, who figured to continue his run as one of the most dominant relievers in MLB.

With Caleb Thielbar and the newly acquired Justin Topa also opening on the shelf, the high-leverage opportunities should go to Brock Stewart and Griffin Jax (in some order), and the other late-and-close arms will likely be Steven Okert and Jay Jackson (again, in some order). As to what those orders will be, and how the Twins will bridge the innings to get there? Let’s find out.

Royals: Will Smith should get many of the save opportunities as the three-time World Series champion returned to Kansas City this season on a one-year deal. The 34-year-old has 113 career saves, so he certainly knows how to handle the moment. But the Royals completely revamped their bullpen this year, adding strike-throwers and relievers who can handle big late-inning moments.

Nick Anderson, Chris Stratton and John Schreiber all figure to get opportunities in high-leverage spots, as well as young and emerging reliever James McArthur. Jordan Lyles, Angel Zerpa and Matt Sauer will all be able to throw multiple innings if needed.

Any injuries of note?

Twins: Outside the aforementioned significant relief injuries, the Twins are also missing fifth starter Anthony DeSclafani -- perhaps for the season -- with a forearm strain after they’d acquired him in the Jorge Polanco trade with the Mariners to fit into the back end of the rotation.

Royals: Kansas City will be missing second baseman Michael Massey because of lower back tightness, but the club is optimistic that the injured list stint won’t be long. Also hitting the IL are relievers Carlos Hernández (right shoulder), Jake Brentz (left hamstring) and Josh Taylor (left biceps). Hernández especially is a hit to the Royals’ bullpen, but they feel covered in high-leverage spots with their additions.

Who’s hot and who’s not?

Twins: Ryan Jeffers broke out in a huge way in 2023, and he continued that success at the plate with a team-leading four homers and a 1.225 OPS this spring. Edouard Julien, one of last year’s rookie sensations, also had a huge spring with a .467 on-base percentage, while Alex Kirilloff shook off an injury-riddled end to last season with 13 hits -- second on the team.

Matt Wallner -- likely the club’s primary left fielder against right-handed pitching -- had a tough spring, going 4-for-37 (.108), but the Twins are hopeful the mechanical adjustments that the traditionally slow starter made will help him enter the regular season strong.

Royals: Coming off an historic 2023 season and a monumental contract extension, Witt continued his performance in Spring Training, with four home runs and a 1.017 OPS. With Massey on the IL, a path to the roster opened for Nick Loftin, and he had already done everything he could to earn a spot on the team.

Loftin, ranked as the Royals’ No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, posted a .940 OPS this spring and he showed his ability to play all over the field, including first, second and third base, as well as some in the corner outfield. McArthur allowed just one run in 8 1/3 innings with 12 strikeouts and one walk this spring and will attempt to continue his 16 1/3 inning scoreless streak from last September into this season.

Velázquez hit just .179 with 11 strikeouts in 39 at-bats this spring, but the Royals didn’t want to ignore the power potential he brings after watching him hit 14 homers in 40 games last year.

Anything else fans might want to know?

Opening Day will bring several promotions at Kauffman Stadium, including a Bobby Witt Jr. bobblehead gate giveaway to the first 30,000 fans. A pregame concert by Kansas City’s Lost Wax will be located on the Miller Lite Fountain Bar Deck (left-center field) from 1-2 p.m. CT. Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.