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Ranking all 30 ‘traditional’ opening day starting pitchers

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(USA Today)

The 2014 season opener is just hours away and not far behind will be our first full slate of action on Monday afternoon. With that in mind, here's a look at all 30 pitchers who will take the ball in their team's respective North American opener — the Australia games counted, but not here — and we rank them heading into the new season.

You can also look back to see how we fared in 2013.

1. Felix HernandezSeattle Mariners (at Angels, Mon. 10:05 ET): The King of Seattle is also the King of opening day. He’s set to start his franchise record seventh opener, which ties him with Justin Verlander for the most opening-day starts among active pitchers. You can safely pencil him into the Cy Young race already.

2. Justin Verlander — Detroit Tigers (vs. Royals, Mon. 1:08 ET): The former Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP will start his seventh consecutive opener for Detroit despite the fact Max Scherzer is coming off a Cy Young season of his own in 2013. Verlander’s seniority with the team and his longer list of accolades likely played a role in that decision. Their inability to come to terms on an extension with Scherzer may have sealed it. Either way, life won’t be easy for Kansas City on Monday afternoon.

3. Stephen StrasburgWashington Nationals (@ Mets, Mon. 1:10 ET): He’s healthy, he’s added a slider to an already impressive array of pitches, and he seems determined to take the next step in his career. If Clayton Kershaw doesn’t win the NL Cy Young, Strasburg will likely be the guy.

4. Adam WainwrightSt. Louis Cardinals (@ Reds, Mon. 4:10 ET): Wainwright will go for a milestone in Cincinnati as he enters the season sitting on 99 career wins. He’s sure to have a decent-sized chip on his shoulder as well after the Cardinals fell in the World Series and he finished second to Clayton Kershaw in the Cy Young balloting. Reserve his spot on the all-star team.

5. David PriceTampa Bay Rays (vs. Blue Jays, Mon. 4:10 ET): Easy call for Joe Maddon after the Rays elected to hold on to the 2012 AL Cy Young winner. Of course, the question now becomes where will Price’s opening day start in 2015 come, but that’s something Rays fans don’t want to think about until they absolutely have to.

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(USA Today)

6. Jose Fernandez — Miami Marlins (vs. Rockies, Mon. 7:05 ET): No-hitter alert on opening day? If it happens, Miami’s 21-year-old phenom and the reigning NL Rookie of the Year may have the best opportunity. In 15 home starts last season, he allowed only 13 earned runs for a minuscule 1.19 ERA. In two starts against Colorado, he allowed only nine hits over 14 innings.

7. Chris Sale — Chicago White Sox (vs. Twins, Mon. 4:10 ET): A strikeout machine - 529 in 500 2/3 career innings - Sale gets a nice matchup to start his season. If head groundskeeper Roger Bossard can’t thaw out the turf at U.S. Cellular Field by Monday afternoon, Sale might do it himself.

8. Cliff Lee — Philadelphia Phillies (@ Rangers, Mon. 2:05 ET): The Phillies have had lots of problems this spring, but Lee isn't one of them. The second-oldest opening-day starter after R.A. Dickey the knuckleballer, Lee is coming off two straight seasons leading the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio. With Roy Halladay retired and Cole Hamels behind schedule because of a sore shoulder, Lee is an easy choice for skipper Ryne Sandberg. If only everything else was so easy.

9. James ShieldsKansas City Royals (@ Tigers, Mon. 1:08 ET): Shields makes his second opening-day start for Kansas City after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays on Dec. 9, 2012. Firmly established as an ace and a workhorse, Shields has topped 30 starts and 200 innings seven years in a row.

10. Madison BumgarnerSan Francisco Giants (@Diamondbacks, Mon. 9:40 ET): While San Francisco’s typically dominant rotation crumbled a bit in 2013, Bumgarner stayed steady and earned his first all-star appearance. Now he’s receiving the first of what should be many opening-day starts.

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(USA Today)

11. Jon Lester — Boston Red Sox (@ Orioles, Mon. 3:05 ET): Manager John Ferrell only confirmed Lester as his starter on Thursday, but there was little doubt he’d get the call. The 30-year-old left-hander is coming off a strong postseason in which he posted a 1.56 ERA over five starts. He’s also looking for a contract extension, but both sides have put those talks on hold.

12. Jered WeaverLos Angeles Angels (vs. Mariners, Mon. 10:15): Weaver completes one of the better opening matchups against Felix Hernandez. With a no-hitter, three all-star selections and three top 5 Cy Young finishes, he doesn’t have to take a back seat to many, but this is one of those rare occasions.

13: Johnny CuetoCincinnati Reds (vs. Cardinals, Mon. 4:10 ET): The Reds will unveil a new manager in former pitching coach Bryan Price, but the opening-day starter remains the same with Cueto getting the nod for a fourth straight season. The issue with Cueto has never been getting him ready for the opener, though he did battle through a scapula irritation last week. It’s about keeping him healthy for 30-plus starts and a possible postseason run.

14. Justin MastersonCleveland Indians (@ A's, Mon. 10:05 ET): Masterson didn’t get the extension he was seeking during the offseason, which may serve as extra motivation heading in to his third opening-day start. Not that he needs to show a lot. His 2013 season was all-star worthy and included an MLB best three shutouts.

15. R.A. Dickey — Toronto Blue Jays (@ Rays, Mon. 4:10 ET): The knuckleballer’s debut season in Toronto didn’t meet expectations, but the Blue Jays will need a bounce back season if they hope to move up the standings in a loaded AL East. It's far from a given considering the unpredictability of his No. 1 weapon, but he's still the ace until proven otherwise.

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(USA Today)

16. CC Sabathia — New York Yankees (@ Astros, Tues. 7:10 ET): Sabathia posted a dreadful 4.78 ERA last season — at least by his standards — but Joe Girardi will give the nod for his 11th opening-day start. View it as a tip of the cap for getting into the best shape of his career.

17. Francisco LirianoPittsburgh Pirates (vs. Cubs, Mon. 1:05): Liriano started last season on the DL with a broken arm but is cleared to start the 2014 opener despite a groin injury suffered last week. That’s big news for the Pirates, as Liriano became a big part of their first winning season in 21 years by posting a 3.02 ERA in 26 starts.

18. Hyun-Jin Ryu — Los Angeles Dodgers (@ Padres, Sun. 8:05 ET): Ryu started the Dodgers' second game in Australia, so he's technically making back-to-back starts. He also has a chance to improve to 2-0 before any of the other 29 teams win their first game.

19. Sonny Gray — Oakland A's (vs. Indians, Mon. 10:05 ET): The 24-year-old right-hander has never attended an opening day, but he’ll start one in only his 14th career start (postseason included). After throwing eight shutout innings against Detroit and outdueling Justin Verlander in the first of two ALDS starts, we’re guessing he won’t be fazed by the atmosphere.

20. Yovani GallardoMilwaukee Brewers (vs. Braves, Mon. 2:10 ET): It’s the fifth straight opening-day assignment for Milwaukee’s ace. An impressive feat given that he’s only 28. His 4.18 ERA last season was a career high, but he’s still Ron Roenicke’s most dependable option despite their recent signing of Matt Garza.

21. Brandon McCarthy — Arizona Diamondbacks (vs. Giants, Mon, 9:40 ET): Wade Miley started the real opener in Australia, but only after Patrick Corbin was sidelined for the season. Still, this is a nice honor for McCarthy to start their true home opener, especially considering the hurdles he‘s had to overcome dating back to his skull fracture in 2012.

22. Jeff SamardzijaChicago Cubs (@ Pirates, Mon. 1:05 ET): Will it be his last opening-day start with Chicago, or just the first of many to come? We should know by the trade deadline.

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(USA Today)

23. Andrew Cashner — San Diego Padres (vs. Dodgers, Sun. 8:05): Took a big step forward in 2013 and may now be on the cusp of reaching all-star status. A tough challenge awaits in the opener, so we may get a feeling for how realistic those expectations are.

24. Chris TillmanBaltimore Orioles (vs. Red Sox, Mon. 3:05 ET): Tillman didn’t develop as quickly as Baltimore hoped he would, but arrived in 2012 posting a 2.91 ERA over 15 starts. He cemented his spot last season with 16 wins, a 3.71 ERA and his first all-star selection. Manager Buck Showalter is calling the assignment a reward for rebounding and stabilizing the Orioles’ rotation. Facing the defending world champions is some reward.

24. Julio TeheranAtlanta Braves (@ Brewers, Mon. 2:10 ET): The 23-year-old right-hander almost gets the job by default after Atlanta lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to season-ending elbow injuries. Mike Minor will also start the season on the disabled list after experiencing shoulder soreness. The team added Ervin Santana two weeks ago to help carry the load, but Teheran is clearly the best option now. In his rookie season, he went 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 185 2/3 innings.

25. Jorge De La RosaColorado Rockies (@ Marlins, Mon. 7:05 ET): At 32, De La Rosa is coming off a career best 3.49 ERA in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. He’ll try to anchor Colorado’s rotation until Jhoulys Chacin returns sometime in May.

27. Ricky Nolasco — Minnesota Twins (@ White Sox, Mon. 4:10 ET): Nolasco inked the richest free agent deal in Twins history this winter at four years and $49 million. With that much committed, he better be the opening-day starter.

28. Dillon Gee — New York Mets (vs. Nationals, Mon. 1:10 ET): It’s a shame it’s not Matt Harvey, and a surprise it’s neither veteran Bartolo Colon or young right-hander Zack Wheeler getting the nod. Gee‘s seniority with the Mets ultimately won out.

29. Scott Feldman — Houston Astros (vs. Yankees, Tues. 7:10 ET): No offense to Feldman, but get back to us when Mark Appel is ready.

30. Tanner Scheppers — Texas Rangers (vs. Phillies, Mon. 2:05 ET): It’s not often a pitcher’s first career start comes on opening day, but such is the case for Scheppers, who as of one week ago wasn’t even a lock to make the rotation. Scheduled opening-day starter Yu Darvish was scratched on Wednesday with neck soreness. The Rangers are also missing lefties Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, and released veteran Tommy Hanson. It‘s a situation very similar to Atlanta‘s, only the Rangers are forced to turn to a reliever turned starter in Scheppers.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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