Sure, we had the Australia series between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks last weekend and Sunday's U.S. opener between the Dodgers and Padres, but those were mere teasers for us baseball fans. Yesterday was the real Opening Day, with 26 teams in action. And what a glorious day it was. We were greeted with all sorts of interesting storylines, though not all of them were positive for fantasy owners.
While familiar faces like Jose Fernandez, Adam Wainwright, David Price, Francisco Liriano, and Justin Masterson were excellent on the mound and big names like Mike Trout, David Wright, Carlos Gonzalez, Buster Posey and Yadier Molina all homered, arguably the biggest story of the day came courtesy of someone we haven't heard from in a while. Playing in his first major league game since September 22, 2011, Grady Sizemore homered and singled against the Orioles. The home run was his first since July 15, 2011. After joining the Red Sox on an incentive-laden one-year deal over the winter, the oft-injured 31-year-old won the starting center field job over Jackie Bradley, Jr. with a surprising showing in the spring. Who knows how long the resurgence will last, but Sizemore could be a huge bargain for Boston and fantasy owners if he can be even 75 percent of the player he once was. So far, so good on that end.
Sizemore is an early feel-good story in 2014, but the injury bug continues to follow Jose Reyes and Wilson Ramos. Reyes left Monday's game against the Rays after just one at-bat due to left hamstring tightness and is now headed to the disabled list. This is the same issue that bothered him toward the end of spring training and he's obviously not back to 100 percent yet. It's a tough break given his injury history and this isn't the start the Blue Jays had in mind after a disappointing 74-88 finish last year.
As for Ramos, he exited the Nationals' Opening Day game against the Mets in the seventh inning due to an injury to his left hand. While an early report said he suffered a broken bone in his hand, Nationals manager Matt Williams said after the game that X-rays came back negative and he'll go for a second opinion on Tuesday. Ramos put up big numbers when healthy last year and appeared poised for a breakout this season, especially after being promoted to the cleanup spot for Monday's opener, but he needs to catch a break for once in order for that to finally happen. We're still waiting.
K-Rod Over Henderson in Milwaukee
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke made a surprising call on Opening Day by using Francisco Rodriguez over Jim Henderson to close out a victory over the Braves. The decision wasn't injury-related though, as Roenicke said after the game that the Brewers weren't pleased with the way Henderson was throwing during spring training. The hope is that he'll rediscover his stuff in lower-leverage situations before returning to his old gig.
Rodriguez had a rough spring of his own, but it wasn't all about his performance on the mound, as he also stepped on a cactus with his bare foot. Ouch. The good news is that he's able to pitch without pain now. The 32-year-old right-hander compiled a 2.70 ERA and 54/14 K/BB ratio over 46 2/3 innings last season and has 304 career saves, so he's not a bad stopgap option while the Brewers try to get Henderson right. I wouldn't give up on Henderson yet in fantasy leagues, but K-Rod is worth owning wherever he's available.
Victorino Ailing, JBJ Back Up
Jackie Bradley, Jr. was sent down to the minors last week after to the unexpected reemergence of Grady Sizemore this spring, but he's back with the big club now that Shane Victorino is on the disabled list with a Grade 1 strain of his right hamstring.
Victorino, who was limited in recent days due to tightness in his left side, injured the hamstring while running the bases during a Grapefruit League game on Saturday. He expressed confidence about his ability to be ready for Opening Day regardless, but an MRI said otherwise. The Red Sox expect to have a better idea about a timetable in 7-10 days, so there's no guarantee he'll be activated when he's first eligible.
The Red Sox went with Daniel Nava in right field and Mike Carp in left field against Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman on Opening Day, so don't expect Bradley to be in the lineup on a daily basis with Victorino out. He's obviously an intriguing player in the long-term, but don't rush to the waiver wire in standard mixed leagues.
Odds and Ends:
- Coming off a big spring, Cardinals managed Mike Matheny installed Kolten Wong as his No. 2 hitter Opening Day against the Reds. The 23-year-old hit just .153/194/.169 over 62 plate appearances during his first taste of the majors last season, but his playing time was sporadic down the stretch and we shouldn't make much out of the small sample size.
The new starting second baseman for St. Louis with Matt Carpenter moving over to the hot corner, Wong was a .301/.365/.446 hitter over three seasons in the minors and offers plenty of speed. With Mark Ellis on the disabled list due to left knee tendinitis, his playing time should be safe in the early going. Be happy if you took him as a middle infielder in mixed fantasy leagues and be sure to scoop him up if he's sitting on the waiver wire. He's a legitimate sleeper.
- When the White Sox traded Addison Reed to the Diamondbacks over the winter in exchange for Matt Davidson, the speculation was that either Nate Jones would take over the closer role. Well, manager Robin Ventura threw fantasy owners for a loop on Opening Day by saying that he plans to give save chances to Matt Lindstrom. The veteran right-hander got his first test in Monday's win over the Twins and tossed a scoreless ninth inning.
Lindstrom, 34, posted a 3.12 ERA and 46/23 K/BB ratio over 60 2/3 innings last season. With 45 career saves to his name, he has previous experience in the closer role, but he hasn't done it on a regular basis since 2010 and averaged just 6.8 K/9 last season despite still dialing it up to the mid-90s with his fastball. Perhaps Ventura just wants to go with a "proven veteran" early on, but my guess is we see Jones emerge in time. Lindstrom is obviously worth picking up wherever he's available right now in fantasy leagues, but don't give up hope on Jones. It's a long season and you might regret dropping him on Day One. Patience, patience.
- Serving as the Cubs starting center fielder and leadoff man on Opening Day against the Pirates, Emilio Bonifacio went 4-for-5 with a double and a stolen base. The 28-year-old has stolen as many as 40 bases in a season before, so there's reason for fantasy owners to be encouraged. Cubs manager Rick Renteria figures to play the matchups early on and he has a lot of options at his disposal with outfielders Justin Ruggiano, Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney, Nate Schierholtz, and Ryan Kalish on the roster, but a hot start could cement Bonifacio in the lineup. Go ahead and pick him up in deeper mixed formats if he's still out there.
NL Quick Hits: Cliff Lee gave up eight runs over five innings in his Opening Day start against the Rangers on Monday, but still got the victory … Bryce Harper hit his head on Eric Young, Jr's shin on a hard slide into second base on Monday against the Mets, but remained in the game and passed two concussion tests … Billy Hamilton started his 2014 season on a sour note against the Cardinals by going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts … Aroldis Chapman (nose, eye) will have a check-up with a doctor Wednesday … Daniel Murphy was out of the Mets' Opening Day lineup to be present for the birth of his child and Chris Young sat out with a mild quad strain … Bobby Parnell blew a save in an eventual loss to the Nationals on Monday and showed diminished velocity and movement in his pitches in doing so … Neil Walker launched a walk-off solo homer to lead the Pirates to a 1-0 win over the Cubs in the 10th inning on Monday … Anthony Rendon went 2-for-5 with a home run and four RBI in an extra-inning Opening Day win over the Mets … Tim Lincecum (knee) still expects to make his season debut Thursday against the Diamondbacks … Jimmy Rollins launched a grand slam in the Phillies' Opening Day win over the Rangers on Monday … Aramis Ramirez knocked in both Brewers' runs in an Opening Day win over the Braves … Jhoulys Chacin (shoulder) threw 25 pitches in a bullpen session Monday … Devin Mesoraco (oblique) will play in a rehab game Thursday with Double-A Pensacola and could be activated when he's first eligible Saturday … Tyler Chatwood (hamstring) will be placed on the disabled list and Jordan Lyles will start in his place Wednesday against the Marlins … David Hernandez (elbow) will undergo Tommy John surgery Tuesday … After failing to make the Phillies, Bobby Abreu has signed a minor league contract with the Mets and will report to Triple-A Las Vegas …
AL Quick Hits: Justin Verlander allowed three runs (two earned) over six innings on Opening Day in a no-decision against the Royals … Felix Hernandez gave up three runs (two earned) over six innings and notched 11 strikeouts in a win over the Angels on Monday night ... Chris Sale allowed three runs and struck out eight batters over 7 1/3 innings Monday in a win over the Twins … Alex Rios went 3-for-5 with a three-run homer in a loss to the Phillies on Opening Day … James Shields allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings Monday in a no-decision against the Tigers … Jon Lester allowed two runs in seven innings in a loss to the Orioles on Monday … Making his major league debut, Jose Abreu went 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI single, and a run scored Monday against the Twins ... Casey Janssen will be shut down from throwing until the tightness in his side improves. Sergio Santos will handle save chances for the Blue Jays for the time being … Sonny Gray struck out seven over six scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Indians on Monday night ... Alejandro De Aza homered twice and knocked in three runs in a win over the Twins on Monday … Making his Orioles debut, Nelson Cruz launched a go-ahead solo homer in Monday's win over the Red Sox … Tanner Scheppers was knocked around for seven runs over four innings Monday against the Phillies … Tommy Hunter, newly-installed as the Orioles' closer, tossed a scoreless ninth inning Monday against the Red Sox to notch a save … Michael Bourn (hamstring) could be activated as soon as he's eligible on Saturday … R.A. Dickey gave up six runs and walked a career-high six in a loss to the Rays on Monday … Hitting No. 2 in the Twins' lineup, Kurt Suzuki went 2-for-3 with three RBI in a loss to the White Sox on Monday … Tigers shortstop Alex Gonzalez played unlikely hero in Monday's Opening Day win over the Royals by delivering a walk-off RBI single … David DeJesus left Monday's game after he was hit in the on the right foot by a pitch, but X-rays came back negative … After being released by the Angels last week, right-hander Joe Blanton returned to the Athletics on a minor league contract … Colby Lewis could join the Rangers' rotation on April 6 … Dane De La Rosa (forearm) hopes to be activated from the disabled list sometime between April 11-13…