It is the most unique opening day in anyone’s lifetime. But there are some things that never change and here are some thoughts for an opening day.
- With the 30 man rosters, there are more than the normal amount of players making their major league debuts. Young pitchers Enoli Paredes, Brandon Bailey, Cristian Javier and Blake Taylor will all have the opportunity to make those debuts. Even in such an odd year with such an odd situation that has to be exciting.
- As a follow-up to that, it will be interesting to see how things shake out as the roster goes down to 28 after 2 weeks and 26 after 4 weeks in conjunction with the potential returns of Yordan Alvarez, Jose Urquidy, Austin Pruitt, Cionel Perez, and Brad Peacock. (Note we have just heard that Alvarez, Urquidy and Perez have been cleared to return and will start working out). Will any of those four newbies in the first bullet hold on to a spot through those cuts? Jack Mayfield is likely being deactivated as soon as Alvarez returns, but what happens to other youngsters like Abraham Toro, Bryan Abreu and Cy Sneed? It would be great to see someone like Javier hang around and produce like he showed in his climb up the minors in 2019.
- It will be exciting to see reigning AL Cy Young award winner, Justin Verlander on the mound for opening day. It will be even more exciting to see Lance McCullers Jr. pitch Saturday in his first game that counts since October 2018. McCullers put out a mini-documentary about his rehab and return from TJ surgery that includes his wanting the scandal to be behind all of them and showing him striking out Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge in the post-season (two guys that have been very loud about the scandal).
- It is sad that a day that would normally be filled with ceremonies honoring the AL Champs will be a quiet, crowd-less night. How would the home town fans have reacted to the team, after the team let them down with the 2017 cheating? Probably the fans would have shrugged it off, but we will never know.
- It will be fun to see how Dusty Baker handles this team. We have an image in our minds of the man wearing out his Chicago Cub young aces, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. But that is not going to happen in a 60 game season and hopefully would not have happened with Brent Strom in the dugout. Will Baker play some small ball once in a while here? Will it be much of an adjustment to manage the DH every day? Will he tinker with his lineup every other day like A.J. Hinch did? How long a leash will he allow pitchers? Will he use the young guys freely?
- The development of Kyle Tucker should be a high priority. The team needs to know if he will take the spot of one of the three OFs (George Springer, Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick) who may be heading out after the 2020 season. They also need to figure out if Myles Straw will be a starter next season or continue in a 4th OF role.
- GM James Click’s role will be on display quite a bit along the way. If he needs to make a trade can he do it with a reasonable exchange of value? What will he do if injuries or illness take a big bite out of his roster? Does he purely play for winning 2020 or does he hold something back (trade-wise) for 2021 and beyond?
- And along those same lines, what is Jim Crane’s role? He already talked about having fans return for sometime this season. With the political climate in Houston and Harris County that is just not going to happen. Will that drive him to put the clamps on the pocketbook that Click can pull from? Would the team floundering force him to do some sell-offs? Will he work hard to bring Springer back as a bone to the fans?
- Watching our favorites light up a lineup that should be among the best in baseball behind Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Brantley, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and eventually Alvarez should be one of the joys of this season. Can Baker get this lineup to do a better job with runners in scoring position than they did last season? Can he keep them from focusing on showing how great they really are and actually produce as much as they should?
These are just some of the big points of interest to watch on opening day and beyond. What has got you fired up for the opening day?