Big League Stew - MLB

We did it in 2008. And again in 2010. Now the tradition continues as we list all 30 men who have received the honor of an opening day start in 2011 and break them down into groups. Where does the pitcher for your team stand?

The Franchises (The never-a-doubt, couldn't-have-been-anyone-else guys)

Roy Halladay(notes), Philadelphia Phillies: How good is Doc? They've assembled a history-seeking rotation at Citizens Bank Park and there's still no debate who's taking the ball in Game No. 1. That not only puts this future Hall of Famer (and reigning Cy Young winner) at the top of the Phils' rotation, but all of baseball as well.

Tim Lincecum(notes), San Francisco Giants: It's been a charmed life so far for the man we call Tiny Tim. The first time he started an opening day, he was a defending Cy Young champion. Same went for the second time. Now on his third try, he's leading the Giants into Dodger Stadium as a defending World Series champion. Only way he tops himself in 2012 if he wins both in 2011. Don't bet against him.

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Josh Johnson(notes), Florida Marlins: If all goes according to plan, the big righty will  be the last Marlins starter to open a season at Sun Life Stadium — and the first to open a season at the franchise's new Miami ballpark in 2012.

Justin Verlander(notes), Detroit Tigers: This is four openers in a row for Motown's Cy Young hopeful. Can he start with an example to lead a rotation every Tigers fan is hoping will blossom into one of the league's best?

CC Sabathia(notes), New York Yankees: Enjoy this one, Yankees fans, because CC will be pitching somewhere else next April when he opts out of his contract and signs somewhere else.

Oh, we kid. The Yanks will definitely pony up the cash for young Carsten Charles — so far he's been (relatively) worth every penny of that $161 million contract he signed after 2008.

David Price(notes), Tampa Bay Rays: James Shields(notes), your three-year run is over. After breaking out as a Cy Young candidate in 2010, Price is the anchor and face of this staff.

Jon Lester(notes), Boston Red Sox: Lester is making the first opening day start of his career this season, but can be considered Fenway Park's version of Sabathia anyway: An unbelievably consistent lefthander who answers plenty of questions while the rest of his well-paid brethren are creating them.

Ubaldo Jimenez(notes), Colorado Rockies: Jhoulys Chacin(notes) has a lot of ground to make up if he even wants to pull this one down into the world of debate.

Felix Hernandez(notes), Seattle Mariners: Who else is glad he's showing that he deserves that "King" nickname? Things could have gotten awkward.

* * *

The Old Faithfuls (Maybe not quite the slam-dunk choice, but experienced in the ways of opening day. Nothing wrong with these guys starting their team's season)

Mark Buehrle(notes), Chicago White Sox: Now that Roy Oswalt(notes) is no longer starting season for the 'Stros, the undisputed title of Mr. Opening Day goes to Mr. South Side, who will making a franchise-record ninth start against the Indians on Friday. But with his contract expiring after this season, will it also be his last?

Chris Carpenter(notes), St. Louis Cardinals: Does he belong in the top group? Maybe. But his age, injury prone reputation and Adam Wainwright(notes) compelled us to bring him down here. He's making his fifth opening day start and second in a row for the Cards.

Livan Hernandez(notes), Washington Nationals: The 36-year-old righthander will be making the fourth opening day start of his career, but also maybe his last if Stephen Strasburg(notes) recovers from Tommy John surgery and comes back in 2012. Hernandez is fine with that situation if it happens. "Sometimes you play golf and birdie doesn't win the hole," he told Adam Kilgore.

Edinson Volquez(notes), Cincinnati Reds: From a 50-game PED suspension to being on the wrong side of Halladay's playoff no-hitter to again being Cincinnati's No. 1 starter by default. The weird, wild career of Edinson Volquez continues.

Ryan Dempster(notes), Chicago Cubs: Speaking of opening day starters by default, Dempster gets the honor because the Cubs' opening day starter for the last six seasons, Carlos Zambrano(notes), went crazy last year. He has the longest layoff between opening day starts of anyone on this list with his last coming for the Marlins in 2002.

Fausto Carmona(notes), Cleveland Indians: He's again pitching well and has a very team-friendly contract. Will he be in the same spot in 2012 or is this the start of a showcase for the midsummer trade deadline?

* * *

The Up and Comers (Young folks with a chance at owning future opening days)

Clayton Kershaw(notes), Los Angeles Dodgers: Can you believe the Dodgers gave Vicente Padilla(notes) the opening day start in 2010? We'll let Kershaw make his first opening day nod before bumping him up to his predicted spot in the top grouping next year.

Ian Kennedy(notes), Arizona Diamondbacks: The 26-year-old righty is coming off his first full season as a starter in the big leagues and the D-backs are hoping this will be the start of a breakout year for the former Yankees prospect.

Ricky Romero(notes), Toronto Blue Jays: On a staff loaded with young talent, the 26-year-old lefty gets the gig this season. If he starts running a streak, it's because he'll have earned it from the likes of Brett Cecil(notes), Brandon Morrow(notes), Kyle Drabek(notes), etc.

Luke Hochevar(notes), Kansas City Royals: Maybe he doesn't hold the same type of promise as a Stephen Strasburg, but here's a fun opening day fact to amaze your friends: He and Price are the only No. 1 overall picks that will start opening days this week.

C.J. Wilson(notes), Texas Rangers: His successful conversion from reliever and the defection of Cliff Lee(notes) opened the opening day door for the @str8edgeracer.

Trevor Cahill(notes), Oakland Athletics: A possible season of regression from the 22-year-old who posted a 18-8 record and a 2.97 ERA last year was one of the offseason's hottest topics. Now he finally gets the chance to prove all the statistical models wrong.

* * *

The Tough Decisions (An OK pick but why not another guy?)

Derek Lowe(notes), Atlanta Braves: Lowe isn't anywhere near the Braves' best starter, but could there be a method to Fredi Gonzalez' madness? Starting Lowe on the road against Washington allows Tim Hudson(notes) — the staff's other elder statesman — to pitch the home opener against Philadelphia.

Jered Weaver(notes), Los Angeles Angels: Weaver or Dan Haren(notes)? Possibly the nicest problem to have.

Jeremy Guthrie(notes), Baltimore Orioles: The very definition of a veteran pick, Guthrie gets his third nod in four years after a one-year break for Kevin Millwood(notes). Brian Matusz(notes), you may be the future of this rotation, but you'll have to wait your turn.

Brett Myers(notes), Houston Astros: Why not Wandy Rodriguez(notes)? Well, the Astros first game is in Philadelphia and makes it an easier decision. That's the city where Myers began his career.

Carl Pavano(notes), Minnesota Twins: Yeah, Francisco Liriano(notes) didn't have the best of spring, but the Twins don't have any love for what he did last season?

* * *

The Replacements (Someone's injured, just filling in for the day)

Mike Pelfrey(notes), New York Mets: The Wilpons aren't paying Johan Santana(notes) to watch Mike Pelfrey do the honors. And yet they're doing just that.

Tim Stauffer(notes), San Diego Padres: Amaze your friends with opening day trivia, part two: Stauffer and Volquez are the only opening day starters to pitch less than 100 innings in 2010. Stauffer's filling in for the injured Mat Latos(notes).

Yovani Gallardo(notes), Milwaukee Brewers: Gallardo got the nod in 2010 and it looked like he might occupy that spot for many years. Until the Brewers traded for Zack Greinke(notes) and then he wasn't. But then Greinke went up for a rebound ... and, well, you know the rest of the story. Here comes Gallardo off the bench.

Kevin Correia(notes), Pittsburgh Pirates: The Parrot has tendinitis.

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