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Big League Stew

Ranking all 30 opening day starters around Major League Baseball

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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Tigers ace Justin Verlander tops the list. (USA Today)

The 2013 season opener is just hours away and not far behind will be our first full slate of action on Monday afternoon. Let's look ahead to some of those early pitching matchups in one form or another

It’s an interesting group of 30 to be sure. They range in age from 24-38. We have six Cy Young winners in the group and another five or six who stand a better than decent chance to bring that trophy home in the future. Some are making debuts in a new uniform, others are cashing bigger checks in their original threads. Some can look forward to many future opening day starts, while others may struggle to crack another opening day rotation.

[Infographic: MLB opening day team payrolls]

We present a ranking of all 30 opening day starters based on where they currently stand heading into the 2013 season. Also, you can take note of when and where each team will be playing so you can plan your schedule accordingly.

1. Justin Verlander — Detroit Tigers (at Twins, Mon. 4:10 ET) We’re going to issue the no-hitter alert right now just to be safe. He may be $140 million richer, but he's not about to give Minnesota’s lineup any charity.

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Clayton Kershaw (USA Today)

2. Clayton Kershaw — Los Angeles Dodgers (vs. Giants, Mon. 4:10 ET) Kershaw starts his third straight opener for the Dodgers and his second against San Francisco coming off a World Series championship. He outdueled Tim Lincecum in what was featured as the season opener back in 2011. For some reason, though, this one won't be the season opener. Hmm.

3. Stephen Strasburg — Washington Nationals (vs. Marlins, Mon. 1:05 ET) The Nationals' ace should be raring to go after his early shutdown in 2012. I wouldn’t want to be any one of the Marlins who have to face him. Actually, I just wouldn't want to be a Marlin at all.

4. David Price — Tampa Bay Rays (vs. Orioles, Tue. 3:10 ET) With 100 of his closest friends looking on, Price begins his quest to repeat as American League Cy Young.

5. Felix Hernandez — Seattle Mariners (at Athletics, Mon. 10:05 ET) The King of Seattle also received a significant contract extension this spring and then breezed through Cactus League competition in dominant fashion. Early concerns about his elbow have long since been forgotten.

[Related: Expert predictions for MLB season]

6. Matt Cain — San Francisco Giants (at Dodgers, Mon 4:10 ET) Again, why wasn't this the Sunday night opener? Oh well, it’s still the main event of opening day and would be must-see TV regardless of when it's played.

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Yes, R.A. Dickey, you're a Blue Jay now. (USA Today)

7. R.A. Dickey — Toronto Blue Jays (vs. Indians, Tues. 7:07 ET): The knuckleball comes to Canada. Will a division championship (or better) come along with it?

8. Jered Weaver — Los Angeles Angels (at Reds, Mon. 4:10 ET) A 20-game winner despite missing five starts with various ailments, Weaver aims to stay healthy and perhaps leapfrog Price and Verlander for his first Cy Young Award.

9. Cole Hamels — Philadelphia Phillies (at Braves, Mon. 7:10 ET) Hamels debuted a new look over the weekend and now readies for his first opening day start. Clearly, he takes that preparation seriously.

10. C.C. Sabathia — New York Yankees (vs. Red Sox, Mon. 1:05 ET) The Yankees' workhorse will be one of the few recognizable names taking the field for Joe Girardi in their opener. His margin for error could be very slim.

11. Chris Sale — Chicago White Sox (vs. Royals, Mon. 4:10 ET) Florida Gulf Coast University’s most famous athlete is going to be the talk of the baseball world, much like his alma mater was in basketball. And he turned only 24 on Saturday.

12. Adam Wainwright — St. Louis Cardinals (at Diamondbacks, Mon. 10:10 ET) The extensions for aces was kind of a thing this spring. Wainwright got one, too, through 2018, which means he should remain a Cardinal for life.

[Related: Nationals start season atop power rankings]

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James Shields (USA Today)

13. James Shields — Kansas City Royals (at White Sox, Mon. 4:10 ET) The Royals finally have their coveted workhorse and ace — and he’s a good one. Lousy spring aside, Shields should be ready to help Kansas City get on track.

14. Johnny Cueto — Cincinnati Reds (vs.Angels, Mon. 4:10 ET) They love Cueto in Taiwan — they just don’t realize it. Matchup with Weaver should be a beauty.

15. Yovani Gallardo — Milwaukee Brewers (vs. Rockies, Mon. 2:10 ET) Gallardo always seems to be on the cusp of reaching elite status but always ends up in that next tier. At 27, there‘s still plenty of time to move up if he improves his consistency.

16. Jon Lester — Boston Red Sox (at Yankees, Mon. 1:05 ET) Lester posted a terrific 0.90 ERA in 20 spring innings and should benefit from facing a weakened Yankees lineup. Somehow, this will still end up a 10-9 game and last well past the four-hour mark.

17. Ian Kennedy — Arizona Diamondbacks (vs. Cardinals, Mon. 10:10 ET) Arizona’s undisputed ace three years running, Kennedy is probably wondering when he can ink his own name on new paper.

18. Tim Hudson — Atlanta Braves (vs. Phillies, Mon. 7:10 ET) Fredi Gonzalez gives the 37-year-old Hudson a nice honor here considering the other talent on Atlanta’s staff. Both Kris Medlen and Mike Minor were in that conversation. Julio Teheran should be next season through 2020.

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Jeff Samardzija (USA Today)

19. Jeff Samardzija — Chicago Cubs (at Pirates, Mon. 1:35 ET) One of the more gifted all-around athletes in the game, Samardzija seems poised for a true breakout year atop the Cubs' rotation.

20. Brett Anderson — Oakland A’s (vs. Mariners, Mon. 10:05 ET) How good can a healthy Brett Anderson be? Maybe this is the season we find out.

21. Jonathan Niese — New York Mets (vs. Padres, Mon 1:10 ET) Formerly known as Jon in baseball circles, Niese gets the opening day nod after R.A. Dickey’s departure and injuries to Johan Santana and Shawn Marcum.

[Related: Expect a comeback attempt from Johan Santana]

22. Matt Harrison — Texas Rangers (at Astros, Sun. 8:05 ET) Harrison is not as sexy a choice as Yu Darvish, but he’s certainly deserving of the nod as one baseball’s most underrated hurlers. In fact, I probably just underrated him.

23. A.J. Burnett — Pittsburgh Pirates (vs. Cubs, Mon. 1:35 ET) Burnett enjoyed a revival last season in Pittsburgh and hopes it continues in 2013. A handful of matchups against the not-yet-ready to contend Cubs can only help.

24. Jason Hammel — Baltimore Orioles (at Rays, Tues. 3:10 ET) I’m not sure the odds favor Hammel repeating his breakout 2012, but they also didn’t favor him having a breakout season to begin with. Don’t doubt him.

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Ricky Nolasco is thrilled to still be a Marlin. (USA Today)

25. Ricky Nolasco — Miami Marlins (at Nationals, Mon. 1:05 ET) Because someone has to do it.

26. Justin Masterson — Cleveland Indians (vs. Blue Jays, Tues. 7:07 ET) Hey, this isn’t Ubaldo Jimenez. What is going on here?

27. Bud Norris — Houston Astros (vs. Rangers, Sun, 8:05 ET) You’re not in the National League Central anymore, Bud.

28. Vance Worley — Minnesota Twins (vs. Tigers, Mon. 4:10 ET) Acquired from the Phillies for Ben Revere, Worley steps right in as the Twins' No. 1. Observation: The Twins could use a little more starting pitching.

29. Jhoulys Chacin — Colorado Rockies (at Brewers, Mon. 2:10 ET) Keeping his focus and staying healthy remain major concerns for Chacin. Oh, and pitching at Coors Field.

30. Edinson Volquez — San Diego Padres (at Mets, Mon. 1:10 ET) He could flirt with a no-hitter or walk six and hit the showers before his first plate appearance of the season. You never know what exactly you’ll get with Volquez, but it’s guaranteed to be something.

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