MLB Opening Day: What we learned

MLB Opening Day: What we learned
April 1, 2014, 12:00 pm
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Buster Posey hit a game-winning home run; Sean Doolittle pitched a scoreless eighth inning. (USATSI/AP)

Day 1 of the MLB season is in the books. Yes, it is only one of 162 games, but there were some significant tendencies that showed themselves. Below is our recap of the news and trends you need to keep top of mind for fantasy dominance.

Relief Pitcher grief:
In a surprise move, it was Francisco Rodriguez -- not Jim Henderson -- who notched the save in Monday’s 2-0 Opening Day victory for the Milwaukee Brewers. Henderson was expected to be the team’s closer after a 28-save campaign in 2013, but after diminished velocity in the spring, manager Ron Roenicke will go with K-Rod until Henderson can “get his stuff back and his confidence going.”

The late-inning surprise continued in Chicago with the White Sox, where eight-year veteran Matt Lindstrom got the nod over setup man Nate Jones in the 5-3 win over the Twins. Lindstrom has 46 career saves and a 3.55 ERA in 387.2 innings.

The New York Mets bullpen walked four and gave up five earned runs in 3.1 innings during Monday's 9-7 extra-inning loss to the Nationals. Making matters worse, closer Bobby Parnell -- who himself was anything but stellar with a blown save in one inning of work -- partially tore his MCL in his elbow and may need surgery. Three-time All-Star Jose Valverde is the most logical choice to replace Parnell after looking good -- and touching 94 mph -- in his 1.1 innings of work Monday.

[RELATED: Mets closer Parnell partially tears elbow]

Rejuvenated outfielders:
It had been 922 days since Boston Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore last played a major league game -- shelved by seven surgeries. After a .310 batting average in 13 spring games, Sizemore beat out prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. to become the Red Sox starting center fielder. On Monday, the 31-year old Sizemore had hits in his first two at-bats, including a home run. Prior to the glut of injuries, Sizemore had four consecutive 20-home run, 20-stolen base seasons from 2005-2008. If he can stay healthy, it would be a huge boon for the defending World Champions.

Chicago Cubs outfielder and leadoff batter Emilio Bonifacio had a nice day with four hits and a stolen base. The rest of his team? They were 2-for-27 with 11 strikeouts. Bonifacio struggled with the Blue Jays, hitting .218 over 94 games last season before he was traded to the Kansas City Royals. With the Royals Bonifacio hit .285 with 21 runs and 16 steals over 42 games. Bonifacio could be a steal going forward.

Lost in the Texas Rangers' pitching and defensive struggles, was leadoff hitter Ben Revere collecting three hits, three RBI and a stolen base. Revere was a colossal bust in an injury-riddled 2013 season, but he is batting leadoff, and he does have 96 stolen bases over the past three seasons.

Bay Area: Giants
Buster Posey was, well, Buster Posey on Monday night with a game-winning two-run home run in the ninth, to go along with his single earlier in the game. Brandon Belt started 2014 with two straight strikeouts, but made up for it with a home run and then two more singles later in the game. Belt should get ample opportunities in the two-hole for Bruce Bochy, especially against righties. In 2013, Belt had a .297 average with 14 of his 17 home runs and a .372 OBP against right handers. Sergio Romo got the save with one strikeout, though he did give up a solo home run to Miguel Montero.

[RELATED: Posey, Giants refuse to quit in Opening Day victory]

Bay Area: A’s
Sonny Gray became the second Oakland pitcher to not allow a run in an Opening Day start with six shutout innings on Monday (Tim Hudson did so in 2003). Relievers Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle did their thing -- each pitched a scoreless inning and struck out two. While Jim Johnson had a rough Oakland debut, allowing two runs in 1/3 of an inning. He should come around, but the likes of Gregerson and Doolittle will always help with K/9, WHIP and ERA.

[RELATED: Johnson's rough debut results in another A's Opening Day loss]

Sleepers:
Seattle Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker (currently on the DL) receives more publicity as a fantasy sleeper, but fellow rookie James Paxton, who is a relative unknown should draw attention soon. The 6-foot-4 lefty throws over the top with a fastball that reaches 97 miles per hour, and features a curve that drops from the heavens. He finished 2013 on Sept. 24 with seven shutout innings, 10 strikeouts and zero walks in a win over Kansas City. Paxton starts against the Angels Wednesday.

Angels starting pitcher Garrett Richards has always had the upper-90s fastball, but until this season, was never a full-time starter. That changed with a 3.47 ERA in five spring training starts. Richards is slated to pitch against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Chicago White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia hit .304 in 42 games with the ball club last season. Mini-Miggy (as he was nicknamed after Miguel Cabrera in Detroit) crushes righties with a career .313/.332/.427 batting line and will face at least three feeble right-handed pitchers this week in Kevin Correia, Phil Hughes and Jeremy Guthrie, all of whom gave up at least 24 home runs to opponents last season.

 

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